n Farmer’s Weekly - Seeing a future in ferns : crops

Volume 2016, Issue 16026
  • ISSN : 0041-848X



Frans and Meg Gerber bought their original 109ha farm from Meg's father's estate in 1986. They built a packhouse and signed a deal with Kenlly Farms to harvest the Knysna fern (). When the contract ended less than two years later, Frans went from door to door seeking new customers. His determination paid off : he signed five contracts and the family business Forest Ferns grew from there to harvest a variety of ferns on more than 150 000ha. "Overseas clients came out to visit and suggested new products. They'd walk in the forest and see products they liked. If these were viable and sustainable, we went into commercial production," says Johan Gerber, CEO of Forest Ferns. Exposed to his parents' business since the age of 10, Johan started a freight forwarding company in 1999 that handled all the exports for Forest Ferns and other clients. Based in Port Elizabeth, he has been fully involved in the running of Forest Ferns since 2012, spending three days a week in Tsitsikamma. Forest Ferns currently employs 100 staff for its export business. Forty more employees work in the tourist arm of the business at Fernery Lodge, which boasts six luxury suites.

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