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Hildegard Witbooi’s love for botany is the real reason behind her taking up horticulture. With a decent amount of laboratory hours behind her, Hildegard has managed to pocket a Masters thesis and is currently writing a PhD thesis. As a horticulturist, she’s been involved with organic farming at Springfontein Wine Estate for the past six years. She chats to Go Hustle writer Ondela Mlandu about the world of potatoes.

A dynamic career

Hildegard works at a wine estate producing wines. “My task has been to farm in these exceptionally special yet difficult conditions, doing tasks such as composting, planting cover crops that complement our natural fynbos, special pruning and canopy management,” she says. She has been responsible for establishing a preventative spraying programme that respects our conditions, which includes a constant wind originating on the coast only 5km from the vineyard blocks.

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“The most valuable aspect of my work has been working with the people in the vineyard. I enjoy training in my field, especially on the topic of natural and certified organic farming,” she says. Today, nearly seven years later, Hildegard finds herself in the position of Head of Marketing and Sales. Her years in the field gave her a perfect basis for an authentic sales approach.

Experience is key!

There are people in this world who are willing to give young people a chance at a career. And you don’t always need a university degree. “A young girl needs to be bold, fearless and try to learn as much as possible. Never give up. Find a mentor. Be the best version of yourself. And just remember that good things take time,” she says.

It’s normal to be impatient when you’re young, but Hildegard has learnt that a flower will bud and bloom when it’s time and it will be unforgettable. “Try to get internships, even if it’s unpaid. Experience is key!”

Internships and training

Most farms have existing training programmes or take on interns throughout the year, but mostly during harvest time. “Depending on the direction you’re planning to take, you should look for a farm or company that specialise in what you wish to do,” she says.

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Hildegard says there’s AgriSeta funding available from government and an applicant only needs a placement farm or company. “The most important part of getting into the wine industry is to be hands-on. Don’t be afraid to get dirty. There’s plenty of time to get your nails done later in your career,” she says.

Pros and cons of the industry…

Hildegard admits that there are difficulties that come with being a woman in the horticulture industry. “It’s because of this phenomenon that I sometimes feel I lost a bit of myself, as I’m constantly trying to be this hardcore, butch person in a very tiny body, ha-ha!” she says.

Hildegard says if she didn’t “man up” in her industry, she’d have men walking over her. “Women are overlooked simply because they are women in my industry. I think in the end we must just choose who we decide to work with. In the end it comes down to respect,” she says.


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Your elevation may require isolation ?

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Passion for more than one thing is normal

Hildegard is a lover of arts and culture. “I love the excitement of travel, language, music in the form of interesting instruments or sound, and of course visual art,” she says. Hildegard is also passionate about business. “I was born an entrepreneur. I often think my whole being is skewed by this. My mind is always racing and thinking – which is quite intriguing as I think of myself as an introvert. But most of all I enjoy training and sharing my knowledge,” she says.

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Word from the wise

1/ Please do not allow anyone to make you feel that you are less than what you perceive yourself to be.

2/ Trust yourself!

3/ If you need to build your confidence, find someone you trust and admire to become your mentor.

4/ Don’t be afraid, young one. Be as bold, fierce and beautiful as you wish to be. You are never too young to be in a leadership role. Embrace it!

A must-read!

That’s a very difficult question to answer! The 5am Club by Robin Sharma.

S is for self-care

“Sunday is the day for all those loose ends to be tied. It gives me great pleasure to know that my house is in order,” says Hildegard. Sunday’s are Hildegard’s self-care days, where she covers things like admin, deep-conditioning her hair and checking in with her inner Hildegard to gather herself. “I enjoy cooking, listening to soulful music and practicing meditation through visualisation,” she says.

Connect with Hildegard

Find me on Instagram: @fynbosqueen


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