Klein Rooiberg Boerdery

Farm: Klein Rooiberg
Owners: Van Heerden and Van der Westhuizen Families
Area: 12000ha
Farming Team: Wilhelm Schade, Kleinman van Zyl, Klonkies van Zyl

Klein Rooiberg Boerdery

The farm Klein Rooiberg has been in the same family for five generations, dating back to the mid-1800s. It consists of three separate farms but has been farmed as one entity for the last 100 years. Klein Rooiberg was first bought by Hendrik Everhardus van der Westhuizen after which he later bought another farm Springbokpan a few kilometers to the north.

When Hendrik van der Westhuizen died his farms were divided between his two sons. Gideon Andries van der Westhuizen (Giel) took over from his father and bought the farm Leewbergrivier that lies between Springbokpan and Klein Rooiberg. With his death, his land was again divided between his two sons of which one still farms there today.

Hendrik Everhardus van der Westhuizen (Hentie) and his wife Helena Susanna Jacoba (Leen) farmed there for over 60 years. They farmed next to his younger brother for almost 40 years, instilling values of hard work, faith, honesty, and love for the animals and the land in all his children and grandchildren. Seventeen years after his death, mentioning their names in Loeriesfontein is still met with fond memories and a positive word. It just shows the positive impact they had on the community across all borders.

After the death of Oupa Hentie, the land was divided between his son and daughter, but the families decided to keep farming on the entire piece of land. They currently farm with 700 sheep consisting of Dorper and Meat Masters. Large farming decisions are still made as a family with the two families working together. Brothers-in-law, Herman van Heerden, and Deon van der Westhuizen together with their sons, both named after their grandfather are involved. The operational activities and decisions are done by the team of Wilhelm Schade and the uncle and nephew pair of Kleinman and Klonkies van Zyl.

The farm is situated in a transfrontier region with the Namaqualand to the west, Hantam to the south, and Boesmanland to the north and East. They enjoy summer and winter rainfall grazing areas and predominantly receive rain in the summer, albeit very little. The farm has a very distinct difference in vegetation in the north and the south. The south is bushier with an abundance of Skaapbos, Bietobos, Kapokbos, Kriedoring, Gannabos, and succulents covering the ground, especially in the mountainous areas. The north, on the other hand, has got fewer bushes but after summer rains, Langbeen- and Kortbeen Boesmangras spring up like wheat in the Swartland.

Farming here has, is, and will always be a struggle, you are 100% dependent on things out of your control and the challenges have not changed over five generations.

We had the privilege of spending the day with Kleinman And Klonkies to better understand why they are here and what they do. Klienman started by saying “Some days it’s nice to farm and then you get days when you think that this area is not suitable for farming, but then you say to yourself, “This is your job. You must get on with it. You can’t just sit at home. You are not a sheep shearer or a wind pump repairman. You are a sheep farmer” He is interrupted by Klonkies with a sentiment that we hear often, “We have grown up amongst the sheep. We have watched how things are done from a young age and now we are doing it ourselves. What we do is a privilege.” They are both pleased with what they do and feel empowered by it. “There is no veld now. Every night we pray for rain. We just want a little bit of green around us. When it looks like this, the only thing you can do is give additional feed to the animals every day”

Another big challenge is the underground water and keeping the reservoirs full. They have two boreholes that need to supply water over 6000ha. They pump this water for more than 10km with wind pumps, which means no wind, no water. Keeping the reservoirs full while the sheep are drinking and the wind that stays away for more than a day is a science on its own.

When asked how they see their future, their response was positive. “We will be here for a long time to come. We are happy here. We have no complaints. We don’t feel we need to complain. The Van Heerden family would not want us to leave anyway”, Kleinman says with a broad smile.

“There is something special here. Silence like you have never heard before. Clean, crisp air and a sky full of stars. Stars like you have never seen before. Here you experience vastness like never before. Everything just keeps ongoing. It creeps into your bones, flesh, and blood and nothing can get it out.”

When asking Hendrik Everhardus van Heerden (Hardus), the 5th generation on the farm and 3rd generation with the same name what impact this place has made on him and why he is still involved, he answered with the following:

“ There is something special here. Silence like you have never heard before. Clean, crisp air and a sky full of stars. Stars like you have never seen before. Here you experience vastness like never before. Everything just keeps on going. It creeps into your bones, flesh, and blood and nothing can get it out.”

“As a family, we owe it to our ancestors to keep going and to keep building a better future. When you walk past the cemetery and see all the names of the people that came before you, you cannot ignore the amount of sweat and blood that was shed in making this place as hospitable as possible. You cannot ignore the 1000s of kilometers on horseback tending sheep, the millions of footsteps walked in the veld herding sheep, and the hours spent on knees praying for rain.

We owe all that we are to them, we belong somewhere, this is our identity. It is our job to create the same feelings of sentiment for future generations as this is how legacies are born.”