We’re catching up with some of our local, family-run businesses in the Midlands.
Indigo Fields started out with owners Paul and his wife Jennifer and their dream of owning a farm in the Midlands. It has become so much more than that – a place which has nurtured and grown all of its people into a dedicated and passionate team, who all strive to give the best Indigo Fields experience possible, and a business run by the family, with each member playing a role. Jennifer and Paul now live and work on the farm with their daughter Kate, son-in-law Justin, and their three children.
“Kate, our daughter, having run her own business for the past 10 years, has embraced the role of manager with skill and ease. Justin, our son-in-law and a successful entrepreneur in his own right, has taken over all of the operations, is an adept hand at building and all things maintenance, and helps Paul oversee the farming enterprise. We have spent the past year building our commercial size essential oil distillation plant and planting 10 000 tea trees – and as soon as we have enough of our own farm-grown plant material, we will start production in earnest. Besides having our own committed family as the task force, there is no finer place to bring up a young family. Rylan, our oldest grandson of seven years, is a keen farmer, supplying fresh eggs to the kitchen from his five hens. Colby (five years old), an outdoor enthusiast, trails behind his dad, taking an interest in all things mechanical. Amelia (three years old), our granddaughter, has us running in circles around her,” says Jennifer.
The farm originally had a coffee shop, art gallery and bed-and-breakfast, but the family quickly realised that, with the Midlands being a popular weekend destination, they needed to make some changes – this is how the African Bush Spa was born! “And so began the years of training and uplifting local women in the art of spa therapy and growing new skills amongst all our current staff. Slowly, the Indigo Fields experience has been shaped into what it is today,” explains owner Jennifer Hindle. Guests can enjoy a holistic package where the spa, food and accommodation are all part of their unique offering.
With tourism being a huge industry in the Midlands, many of the locals have been impacted by the lockdown, and are now looking to build up their businesses again. “We were able to use the lockdown time to complete some messy building alterations and although we have struggled financially with not earning anything for four months, we have been so well-supported since reopening,” Jennifer tells us. Indigo Fields and their team, most of who have journeyed with the farm over the past 16 years, have become a family. “Our mission is to make a positive difference by inspiring and nurturing all those whose hearts have lead them to Indigo Fields, and to treasure the human spirit in every single one.”
033 266 6101
Indezi River Creamery
Indezi River Creamery is a true example of what can happen when a family comes together successfully to run a business. Founders Jimmy and Wendy Harris brought their young family down to the KZN Midlands in the early 1970s and settled on a beautiful farm between Balgowan and Curry’s Post. Here they started building their own certified Jersey herd. One day, a herd inspector suggested that they should try to make their own cheese with the milk, instead of just sending it away to a large buyer – and so in 1994, Bellevigne Creamery was born!
Although Jimmy and Wendy were a little uncertain at first, their cheese was well-received and this gave them the confidence to experiment more and create their own unique and delicious cheeses. Their endeavours have always been a real family enterprise. Jimmy’s creativity and passion was brought to life by the capable hands of Wendy and their daughter, Barbara Robertshaw. Their other daughter, Derryn Nash, managed the cow and goat herds. Barbara’s husband, Andy, clearly remembers the early morning chill and anticipation of farmers’ markets and festivals. It didn’t take long before the demand was too great, and things needed to get professional! However, the family remained, and still remains, central to all activity.
After nearly two decades of pioneering artisan cheese in South Africa, Jimmy sadly passed away and Barbara took the reins of Indezi River Creamery. She has grown the business steadily through very difficult economic times and has proven herself as a very successful entrepreneur, while raising a family and managing the many demands of a working farm.
In 2020, Barbara’s daughter returned from Cape Town with her husband and their own three small children, who are the fifth generation of the family to live in the valley. Lance and Kate both play strategic and operational roles in Indezi and bring fresh energy to the family business. The farmer in Kate was soon re-awoken, and she is slowly learning the art and science of raising and milking goats and sheep.
The cheeses have been so successful that the little factory on the farm is a long-distant memory. A purpose-built factory now serves to meet demand for their products, which now includes a wide range of dairy products. The factory was awarded the Food Safety System Certification 22000 – which demonstrates that their food safety management systems are robust and thorough and proves that they don’t have to compromise quality and hygiene when handcrafting their traditional, artisan dairy products.
“With deep roots in the area, we are grateful to know that we belong here. It seems right that the youngest members of our family should grow up with the same dirt under their fingernails and wind in their hair,” says Barbara. Indezi River Creamery continues to grow from strength to strength with the family at the forefront!
The Railhouse Farmstall
There was no single event that resulted in The Railhouse Farmstall being born, but rather it was a culmination of events.
This family-run farm stall is so much more than just that – they’re all about good quality and family values. If you are looking for great coffee, biltong, homemade goods, plants, lifestyle products and a beautiful spot to spend some time with friends and family, then you’ve come to the right place!
Owners Joni and her husband Wayne took over from The Ugly Duckling opposite Granny Mouse and are building their business together, with the help of their family. Joni grew up in a farming community in Harrismith and came to boarding school in the Midlands when she was 10. Wayne and his family are from Pietermaritzburg and so the couple always knew they’d end up in Natal, and the Midlands is a great family environment with good schools and is an ideal place to raise kids. “We’ve been looking for a business opportunity in the area since we’d planned our move down here. We’ve always been focused on finding good quality goods at a fair price and had spoken about how good, friendly service can make a person’s whole day better. When we found out that this location was available, Wayne straight away said that the location is perfect for a farm stall, and so The Railhouse Farmstall was born,” says owner Joni. The couple wanted a place where they could work together and do what they were passionate about.
Joni loves gardening and plants and Wayne is passionate about delicious food and beverages, and so the farm stall has allowed them to put great quality coffee, delicious biltong, good eats, plants and other lifestyle goods together in one place with a friendly, happy vibe. “We are a large, dynamic family who are all a bit shy of the spotlight. The biltong and most of the eats are made by the family,” Joni explains. The farm is child and dog friendly and there are plans to build a playground to allow parents to have a good cup of coffee while the kids play. “We plan to make great use of our gorgeous large garden by hosting events and outdoor functions here, such as our spit braai on Heritage Day.”
“We’re not a family of a lot of words. It’s an unwritten knowledge that we will always be there for each other. Actions speak louder than words and that was certainly true in this venture where the family has helped with the renovations, gardening, sourcing and stocking goods, baking, making biltong and launching our social media. We had everyone there with us for the opening and that’s what counts,” Joni tells us.
Corner of D2346 and R103, Balgowan, KZN Midlands