Building on our heritage

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Piet (California) and Miemie Cillié. A visionary, Piet California was the first South African farmer to gain official accreditation to export fruit to Europe in 1887.

At Laastedrif we are proudly building on a rich heritage of pioneers who helped shape fruit farming in South Africa. Laastedrif was founded by Koos Cillié, grandson of the legendary Petrus Johannes Cillié, better known as Piet California. Together with men like John X Merriman, Harry Ernest Pickstone and Cecil John Rhodes, Piet California played a key role in establishing a modern, commercially viable fruit industry in the Western Cape and South Africa.

It was in his footsteps and those of his father, Pieter, that Koos Cillié progressed. First at his birthplace, the farm Die Bos outside the town of Ceres, and later at Laastedrif, 40 kilometres away in the Bo-Swaarmoed area.

The Cillié family has been farming in the Ceres valley for more than a century – ever since Pieter Cillié bought Die Bos in 1909. Pieter continued his famous father’s legacy and was one of the first farmers to plant fruit trees at Ceres. He was also a founding member of Ceres Fruit Growers Cooperative in 1922 and Ceres Cooperative Cold Storage Company in 1930.

His son Koos acquired Laastedrif In 1950 at the age of 27. He planted apple and pear orchards, bred cattle and sheep and later cultivated potatoes and onions on a large scale. In 1952 he married Irene Rossouw in Paarl and they had a daughter and two sons.  His management skills and vision were recognised at an early age and he served on ten boards and councils involving agricultural interests.

During his twenty years as chairman of Ceres Fruit Growers Cooperative Ltd, this organisation developed into the largest in the southern hemisphere and the world’s largest fruit-cooling complex.

Today Laastedrif is the headquarters of the Laastedrif Farming Group. Under the leadership of Koos’s son Rossouw, the group produces stone and pome fruit and a wide selection of vegetables, onion plants and seed, and is also involved in sheep farming. A hardworking farmer and business man like his forebears, Rossouw over time extended his activities to six farms covering some 20 000 hectares.

Rossouw Cillié serves on the boards of Ceres Fruit Growers (CFG), True Cape, KORKOM and other industry organisations.