In keeping with the general philosophy of Fountainhill Estate and the Taeuber Management Trust (TMT), of “Farming in Harmony with Nature”, numerous successful agricultural enterprises are managed on Fountainhill. Sugar cane production and avocado cultivation are the major enterprises, but dryland maize, for maize silage, timber and limited vegetable production is practiced in suitable seasons and economically beneficial circumstances. Income from the commercial enterprises cross-subsidizes the financial requirements of the conservation and other philanthropic efforts, of the organisation.
This has been the most significant crop, during recent times, and presently occupies some 660 ha of the property. As is the norm in the more temperate growing conditions of this cane production region the crop is cut at 18 to 24 months. Crops of between 22,000 to 30,000 t pa are harvested and supplied to the Illovo sugar milling company, at Noodsberg, annually. It is produced predominantly under dryland conditions, with some supplementary irrigation being applied to approximately 100ha. Great care is exercised in managing the water resources of Fountainhill, and in periods of drought water resources are diverted to the higher value crop – avocado.
This enterprise provides employment opportunities to more than 70 people, many of whom are housed in the Nhlanhleni Staff Village, others opt to commute from their homes in the neighbouring areas of Trust Feed, Mpolweni and Swayimane, where their family homes are located.
Avocado have been cultivated here since 1978, making the oldest orchards over 40 years of age. Most commercial varieties are produced here although the focus is aimed at those cultivars favoured by the export market, at which production is targeted.
The avocado orchards cover 59 ha presently, of which 11 ha are new plantings, employing some 15 to 20 staff. Further expansion is planned.
Over the history of the avocado orchards, they have suffered mixed fortunes due in part to older blocks being planted on seedling rootstocks and various management and marketing strategies, over time.
Only 15 ha of timber plantations remain on the properties previously dominated by timber plantations. These areas contribute sporadic income from pine plantations.
During suitable climatic periods and if economics are favourable dryland maize is cultivated for silage, under contract to local feedlots.