You are currently viewing our desktop site, do you want to download our app instead?
Moneyweb Android App Moneyweb iOS App Moneyweb Mobile Web App

NEW SENS search and JSE share prices

More about the app

From backyard farming to supplying Africa’s biggest retailer

South African farmer supplies Shoprite and Checkers with about three tons of spinach annually.
Green fingers - Kepas Melodi and Checkers Hazyview Branch Manager Agnes Maluka. Image: Supplied

Though Kepas Melodi’s farming enterprise started off small, it has since grown into a sizeable operation that has seen him operate from communal land, based in Hazyview and employ nine people full-time. He’s also managed a partnership with a major retailer and learnt valuable lessons.

His is a story that may motivate other would-be farmers and entrepreneurs.

He was inspired to start farming in 2003 when he identified a shortage of fresh spinach produce in the fresh produce market in Hazyview, where he worked at the time.

The demand for the product and its subsequent lack of supply is what launched him on a quest to sow the seeds and start the business.

When it came to funding his farming, Melodi dug into his own pocket.

My business is self-funded. I saved some money while I was still working at the fresh produce market in Hazyview, and slowly built up my business over time,” he says. 

At first, he sold his spinach to the fresh produce markets and through hawkers. But then in 2012, he managed to sell a few crates of green beans and mielies to selected Shoprite and Checkers stores in the Gauteng region, and a partnership was born.

He now harvests and supplies approximately three tons of spinach to the Shoprite Group a year, where it is sold at not more than R22 (excludes baby spinach prices).

Even so, he explains that a big harvest of the same product had its own unique challenges. 

“When stock was flooded at the market and the buyer could not take everything from me, I would have to try to sell my excess stock, which was challenging from a collection point of view, and a lot went to waste.”

Melodi has been supplying to Shoprite for almost 10 years now, and because of the buyer-and-farmer relationship that he has established with the retailer over these years, he has a better idea of when and what to plant in order to reap maximum benefit from the land.

He now has big plans.

“I have plans underway to also start farming cabbage and beetroot. My business is working so much better now. I can supply the buyers with what they want, and the proceeds of my hard work are going directly into the bank.”

Melodi says farming takes a long time to generate money, and he is “constantly re-investing money back into the business.”

Through his long-standing partnership with the group, he receives information on market-related issues like suggestions on the type of seeds that should be planted when certain products become scarce. He is also advised on opportunities when farmers elsewhere cannot supply products.

“They also help me look at environmental issues, such as crop cycles, and to make informed decisions.”

During a time when many entrepreneurs were forced to discontinue their business, Melodi commends the support he receives from Shoprite, saying it enabled his business to survive Covid-19 woes. 

“This relationship has helped me a lot and for me, nothing has changed significantly. I have a good relationship with Shoprite and I speak to them often. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. When I plant, I have some certainty and know where I am taking it,” he says.


Sort by:
  • Oldest first
  • Newest first
  • Top voted

You must be signed in to comment.


Probably on the back of free land, state sponsored equipment and the BEE requirements for firms!!

dude just give credit where credit is due!

Dude, if you’ve ever dealt with S/C credit due is credit scarce

Casper, is something biting your arse !!!!
Give some credit where credit may be due, unsupported irrational comments not acceptable.
Well done Kepas.

Think they care about suppliers? Think again

They do this because it looks good on their score card and they get media coverage, like now

I recall many years ago when Whitey imported long life milk from South America when our own Dairy Farmers were bleeding

You can only be the biggest retailer when you’re ruthless

Refreshing to read a story of success where the owners worked industriously to make a success of the business . Well done

Good on you Mr Melodi. The problem here is not finding people to assist (there are millions of them), but finding those who are willing and able to put in the time and effort. You, sir, seem to have the right attitude and I wish you well.

Great story & very inspiring. He did it himself (own funds), and no mentorship mentioned. Taking my hat off to this farmer, and may he serve as “can do” inspiration to others.

Also pray that his farm (and workers) will be safe from farm attacks. It’s not only white farmers bearing the brunt…it’s everyone (as a result of a culture of no accountability for crimes in SA).

May the Melodi-family be blessed! (along with all farmers). The farming community share the same aspirations.

Fortunately vegetables are difficult to steal, because you must harvest them first. Livestock on the other hand…

Good point, DogEatDog

Interestingly, a life-long friend (of my late father) is still farming in the Wellington area (semi-retired, in fact). Also had to deal with THEFT from his fruit/peach orchard year in, year out.

Until this farmer had enough of theft & decided to convert to growing Olives. Suddenly theft from his orchard vanished…simply because olives still has to go through a processing plant, before it can be bottled and sold off to retailer ready to be consumed. That’s too much effort for a thief.

Peaches and other fruit can be stripped from trees, and readily be eaten (the high-profile case of the 2 Coligny-farmers comes to mind, where a youngster was caught stealing sunflowers, and then fell from bakkie).

However, yes I agree with your comment: cattle/livestock is the more serious “big ticket” problem facing farmers.

Inspiring. May there be MUCH more please

Agree. We are inundated with all the negative, all the time. What a pleasure to read something positive for a change.

Kepas Melodi finds opportunity from planning, effort and fortitude

This article is more about someone who is not feeling entitled, thinking life and the government owes him

I wonder how our president would feel, knowing he got his wealth from blackmailing industries

Interestingly enough, this is not an ANC land redistribution project. This is entrepreneurship, risk-taking, trial-and-error and management skills at their best. This example proves that South Africans have what it takes to be successful entrepreneurs. Consider the countless small street vendors, taxi operators and shebeen owners who make a living in the informal market.

This brings us to the point – We have the necessary human potential, but the political system directs that potential and efforts in the wrong direction. The communist ANC dogma incentives entrepreneurs to vote for a living instead of working for a living. The system rewards them for getting involved in protest action and burning tyres as a business plan. The system rewards unaccountability and incentivises the victim complex and irresponsible behaviour patterns.

Further, the political system uses the socialist redistributive policies of BEE, cadre-deployment, labour laws, minimum wages and taxation to turn the formal economy into an informal one. The formal economy, that creates formal jobs, is shrinking, while the informal economy grows because the entrepreneurs in the informal industry simply ignore these laws and regulations.

We will see many more success stories like this if the voters send the ANC to prison where they belong.

Spot on comment, Sensei. Cannot say it better myself. Happy farming in the Swartland!

Attitude, drive, support, vision, discipline is at play here… well done to Melodi for his financial discipline, attitude and drive to build his empire. Good on Shoprite to see the potential and the vision of Melodi.we need contributors to society, not demands and entitlement.
There may have been benefits from government incentives, but Melodi has taken those and made them work… anyone want to comment on a diary farm some in the North West?

I know many people doing exactly that. But they do not consider themselves exceptional, they are merely vegetable farmers.

I don’t know why startups like this can’t be set up in most areas of SA. Not only farming, but also artisinal businesses for consumer goods.

End of comments.





Follow us:

Search Articles: Advanced Search
Click a Company: