Roux Pecans EU Cerified Organic Pecan Nuts and Kernel

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Location: Ramah Farm, PO Box 255, Hopetown 8750. South Africa, Tel/Fax:+27-53-2040001, South Africa

Monday, August 24, 2009

New Website and Blogspot

We have updated the Roux Pecans website to include the blog.
Please go to and catch up with us and the latest news there.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Digging holes for new trees

It's time to get the new trees planted. The first have arrived and the sooner they get into the ground the better. This auger helps tremendously.

Our oldest trees were planted after the holes were dug by hand. That was a massive undertaking and back breaking!!

We will be planting Pawnee, Choctaw and Navaho on this block.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


One of the many remarkable animals we are fortunate to have in the pecan orchard on Ramah is the Aardvark. (Orycteropus afer)
This particular one is not averse to walking about during daytime. Usually, they are nocturnal and a very rare sighting.
We consider the aardvark as an undeniable asset in our orchard management. Termites can be a terrible problem in young orchards particularly. They are inclined to ring bark young trees at ground level. Because we irrigate the trees, termites are attracted to the area for water.
We have two defences against termites.
1. Irrigate enough to make the area around the tree too wet to be comfortable for termites.
2. Hope that this rare animal finds your orchard and if it does, hope that it stays!!
For more information on this animal try:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Farmers philosophies

Organic / Sustainable / Renewable / Fair Trade / Fairly Traded…et al Agriculture seems to be locked in a struggle with what has latterly become Conventional Agriculture when you listen to farmers discussing the merits or demerits of management systems.

In South Africa the word “Organic” is cynically used by retailers and wholesalers as a marketing slogan for products and goods of all description.
They have done this to the point that using the word has almost reached negative connotations in the mind of the general public

These two forces of perception are very difficult trends to buck in particular when one’s agricultural and marketing principles demand that you measure your principles against a standard.
That standard for Roux Pecans and Ramah Farm being, those guidelines in law as prescribed by the EU and Switzerland to use the word “Organic/Bio” to prove annually that we have conformed to those minimum requirements. We have done this for more than 10 years now.

There is no question that the “bottom line” is important and a motivation in farming. Any kind of farming.

Does the end justify the means, or do the means justify the end?

To this extent, it is a question of philosophy.
Since World War II, farmers have been trained, schooled and coerced into a system of agricultural production that demands and respects those farmers/agriculturalists who are at the cutting edge of “bottom line first” systems.

The excesses of this post WWII mindset do worry conscientious farmers but, it is difficult to “unlearn” taught “truths”. The fear of changing a paying, successful method for a different philosophy in agriculture is a very difficult process.
I can vouch for this personally.
It flies in the face of banking norms and expectations with the resulting skepticism and loan withholding.
It flies in the face of institutional academic agriculture funded by and large by commercial interest groups that target the students of these institutions.
Peer pressure or community norms in the family of farmers cannot be underestimated.

Then on top of this come the labels, chief of which “Organic”.
It is like joining the other team and now the process of justification begin and the arguments for and against.

These discussions become tedious, meaningless and irrational.
Until, it dawns that it is not a competition but a philosophy or force of conscience, and that even Certification to a standard is just a test of progress along path.

This realization has eased the tension in opening discussions about different ways to farm and live in agriculture.
It removes the confrontation and, with enquiring, intelligent fellow farmers it sets in motion a new or different style of discussion.

Typically I get asked “What is “Organic” agriculture?”
“What is better, a genetically modified potato against a virus or one that may decay before consumption?” ………..and so on.
There are many such confrontational opening lines.

I find them easy to answer now.
“It is not a competition between systems or farmers. You do as you please. The consequences of what you do is what makes it interesting.”

This is usually a good time to open a good bottle of wine.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Roux Pecans in muesli

One of our European customers has a special order from Roux Pecans for their muesli mix.

They very kindly sent us two sample boxes.

Kaatjie Buffel is seen inspecting the grade wanted for this mixture, to ensure that only the best passes her by.

In the second picture is Kaatjie's husband George, the Processing Supervisor and Bob, admiring and commenting on the product with some of the ladies who inspect other grades.

They are looking forward to tasting it!!

Out with the old - in with the new

In the 1950's my father returned to the farm after spending 6 months at as a trainee stud manager at a prestigious Thoroughbred Racehorse Stud Farm in England.

He was very keen to grow crops of lucern and teff along the river. My grandfather was not keen as he said that irrigation along the river was a precursor to bankruptcy.

He relented and the first Ferguson tractor, or "Vaal-Japie" (Grey-Johnny) as they are called in South Africa, with trailer filled with implements was driven the 120 km from Kimberley to the farm. Cost: Six hundred Pounds.

This tractor was the first in the world to come standard with a "3-point linkage system".

All tractors since have them.

In 1965 the Fordson Super Major arrived. This tractor together with the two Fergusons prepared the ground for the pecan development.

Here Bob Roux watches them being loaded to be taken to a tractor dealer.

We have been told that a collector of vintage tractors has made an offer for them. Sentiment wishes that they have such an end.
It was sad to see them go.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Orange River in Flood

Even though we have not had that much rain at Ramah Farm, the catchment area upstream has and as a result we have lifted the pumps and seen the level of the river rise 3m from the normal level.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Organic Principles

  1. WHY CERTIFICATION IS IMPORTANT? See Archive entry for 27th August 2006
  2. WHAT DOES ORGANIC MEAN? See Archive entry for 23rd August 2006
  3. Also 15th December 2006

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Porcupines and plastic pipe

Porcupines are rodents with a hair adaptation that makes them an awesome foe if confronted. Contrary to some beliefs, they do not shoot their quills but rather reverse into an attack and leave the quills embedded in the attacker.
They can weigh 10kg easily. Google(Images) Porcupine to see pictures of a dog with quills. Not pretty.
Porcupines are hunted and eaten. The muscle on the back that controls the positioning of the quills being the particular delicacy. Very much like pork.
The quills have become a common item in the creation of necklaces, and other curios in the "African Curio" trade. They are a by-product of the meal.
Hunting porcupines for the quills has become more regular than the requirements to satisfy hunger. There is a huge drive to inform buyers of "African Curiosities" not to buy items with quills in them.
Porcupines eat holes into plastic pipes . This brings them into confrontation with irrigation farmers and stock farmers. Many a reservoir has been emptied by a porcupine gnawing a hole into the plastic pipe from the reservoir to the trough.
On the whole, this habit has not endeared them to farmers generally.
It is surmised that they dig to find the pipe because they can sense the water in it and need a drink.
On Ramah we have replaced 8km of 25mm plastic pipe in the orchard this year.
The cost in pipe is significant, not to mention the time taken to repair it and the lost time irrigating.
The orchard is flush up against the Orange River and it is not unheard of for them to gnaw through a pipe in a block that is being irrigated. In other words, with water sprinkling on them and standing in pools of water!!
Just as curio makers are incurring the wrath of "porcupine protectors" so too are farmers, because they do not take kindly to this nocturnal activity.
The idea that they are gnawing the pipe for water may not be the whole truth. We find bits of pipe that we have replaced inside their burrows sometimes 400m from the orchard. In other words they are taking it away to their burrows to eat or gnaw on later.
They like plastic.
Rather than give farmers a bad rap for hunting these rodents, some pressure should be put on plastic pipe manufacturers to insert a pheromone or flavor into the plastic that repels the porcupine.
The first plastic pipe company to do this will win every wildlife accolade, together with massive positive press. Something that is in short supply in the plastics industry.
Most importantly, every farmer will buy the "Porcupine Resistant" pipe.
One plastic pipe company can save the porcupine from persecution. Every other competing company will be desperate to follow suite because they will loose market share for sure.
Please find lobbyist that can pressure a plastic pipe company to be first.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Trench Digging

At last we have started making progress with the new development. This machine is an incredibly destructive thing in capable hands!!

The trench was dug in a day. Pulling out stumps was an absolute breeze.

The orchard will be 50% bigger by August.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Brown locust Comments and Observations

Brown locusts are a scourge and cause famine due to crop loss.

This is a "Biblical-type" of statement, and true in a First World environment. If you are a subsistence farmer living from one season to the next dependant on on the crop in the ground then, drought, locusts, hail or other "Acts of God" are life threatening.

In a more modern context, if you are an irrigation farmer reliant on the crop under your centre-pivot irrigation system to pay your interest on loans etc, then a crop not insured against "Acts of God" are at risk.

In South Africa crop farmers put huge pressure on authorities to kill the locust swarms while they are still in the "hopper" stage and before they fly. Brown locust eggs survive decades until conditions for hatching are just right before they arrive as a plague. Soil moisture and temperature are the main determining factors.
A positive spin off that "God's Act" has is that they excrete pellets of processed organic material. See the picture.
These they excrete continually, even when flying. The deposits can leave a layer on the ground. Ants carry them underground. In a desert or semi-desert environment this form of fertilization is vital, in my view. It is hard to see fresh grass disappear before your very eyes even before the livestock has had an opportunity to benefit from scarse seasonal rains, but there is the fertilization consolation, if you want consolation.

When they are young, poisons are sprayed onto the hoppers and they die. Later the swarms are followed in trucks with spraying equipment waiting for the swarm to settle an feed, usually in the evening. Then they are sprayed and soon die.

The conflict of interest is this;
Irrigation farmers can't, or don't want to spray poisons onto their crops prior to harvest. The reasons for this are obvious. Residual effects of poisons and the marketing resistance to these kinds of poisons are but two reasons.
The alternative is to spray them while they are still in the semi-desert stock farming areas.
Here, "Bat-eared foxes" eat them and so do birds of almost every description. Bat-eared foxes populations implode after locust swarms.
Sometimes the swarms die a hundred kilometers from where they were sprayed.
The "veld" or pasture can be covered in dead locusts.
Sheep eat them.
The poison residues can end in the fat deposits which ultimately ends on the plate. There is much less publicity of this unfortunate reality.
I have barely scratched the surface of these conflicts of interest.
Suffice to say that by law I am expected to report the presence of Brown Locusts on my farm so that they can be sprayed.
I will have to break the law.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Pump Station upgrade

Bob Roux opens the tap for the new pump. This installation was planned in 1996 and now begins the process of shifting the hectares from 50 to 100. Exciting times. We will add 25 hectares this winter

Monday, January 05, 2009

Locusts in Roux Pecans Orchard

This is the first time the prolific pest the Brown Locust, has arrived in our orchard. This pest is the scourge of crops in Africa destroying vast tracts of fresh pasture growth in a short time and naturally, destroys food crops in a short time. Literally hours

Interestingly enough they did not relish pecan leaves.

I assume this may be due to the tannin content in the leaves. I am interested to find out if there is further evidence in this regard.

For the uninitiated, these swarms can be so dense as to effectively block out the sun for an hour or more.

They can truly be an awesome natural experience.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Roux Pecans 2009 crop in 2008

This is the future!!!


Storms at Ramah - Roux Pecans

We have had quite severe winds with some rain occasionally. The most spectacular light shows in Cumulus Nimbus clouds with wind and rain accompanied by the grumble and groan of thunder at night is special - even if it does damage some trees. I try and see it as a form of pruning. It proves to me that I did not shape the trees well enough when it was young.

First container to Europe 2008

Just some pics of the boxes and loading before leaving the far.

This year we have decided to use our railway again to deliver the consignments to Cape Town. The logistics company there puts them on specific pallets before they are loaded on board ship in our own container.

Friday, October 24, 2008

RAMAH FIRE 11.10.2008

Ramah house was seriously damaged by a fire that started in my office at my computer. It appears that an electrical short circuit was the cause.

Two pictures are the inside of my office, and some artifacts recovered. Some may be recognizable on close inspection.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ramah - Farm Views

Recently friends visited us on the farm and took a number of photos, two of which are here. The first is a view towards the house at Ramah with the Orange River in the distance, with the graceful and spectacular Oryx walking by in the foreground.

The second was the last evening sunset before they left for England and Dubai.
Left to right: Chris Roux, Dr Panos Barlas, Dr Andre Wessels and Sandy Roux in the foreground.

What a lovely day and happy memories!

Friday, September 12, 2008

First container of "Special Reserve" leaves Cape Town

Seven tons of our Roux Pecans "Special Reserve" perfect halves is ready to leave Cape Town harbour. In the photo the boxes are palletized and shrink wrapped to be put into the shipping container.They should be with our customer in 28 days.

2008 Crop

Roux Pecans has a 25% increase over the previous record crop this year.
More pleasing is that the quality is excellent.
Reasons for the new harvest record and the fact that the quality is excellent is that the younger part of the orchard is now kicking in with increased production. Young trees usually have excellent quality nuts.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wichita really heavy this year.

Wichita nuts in a cluster on the tree prior to shaking and then in the crate before storage and shelling.

Wichita after shaking and in a crate for storage

New Record Crop

Our crop this year has topped the previous record and, by all accounts may go as much a 15 - 20% more.
The really pleasing part of this is that the quality is particularly good too.
The 5 kilo blocks are stacking up ready for delivery to our "friends".
We put two 5 kilo blocks in one box.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Are "organic" products worth a premium price?

Anybody can label their produce as "organic" in South Africa, and the perception is that the consumer should pay more because you do. This happens in South Africa.

In the European Union you have to be certified by a registered certifying business ( a 3rd party) that the product meets certain E.U. legal requirements before the word can be used in marketing.

What "organic" is, is different to different people and they are selective in their perceptions.

Personally, I don't think that the term or word "organic" deserves any price premium unless it means a better or higher standard of quality or excellence.

The fact that "non-organic" products may contain harmful additives, or have a high carbon footprint amongst many considerations may be good enough reasons to lower the quality in the eyes of the purchaser - if those are considerations at all.

The mere fact that products or produce are labelled organic should not necessarily command a higher price on the shelf.

A higher price can only be achieved if the quality presented is better.

What is quality?

Like beauty; it is in the eye of the beholder.

Organic certification is a quality bonus - not a guarantee.

Soon you may/will find the likes of Pick 'n Pay and Woolworths in South Africa and Tescos and the like in Europe and USA have their own certifying businesses to certify "their farmers" to their standard.
I hope their customers are not hoodwinked.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Oil price and Taxes help organics

Have a look at the post on 26th April 2007.

Isn't it amazing how similar results can be reached from different angles?

I have had a lot of interest from farmers who use a lot of diesel and fertilizers derived from oil by-products since the dramatic price rises in the barrel price of oil.

In effect, taxes on fuel and the cost of inputs has made farmers think again about using these products. Farmers think through their wallets.

I was told recently that for a farmer to buy 10 bags of MAP (Mono-Ammonium Phosphate) he has to produce a ton (1000kg) of grain.

When ploughing with the massive tractors used today 2000 litres can be burned up each day by each such tractor. I fill my 2000 liter diesel tank once a year.

This will focus the minds of "progressive" farmers. "Progressive" means the bottom line only - usually.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Harvest Time - Ramah Farm - Roux Pecans

Another restful scene in our orchard. I am always reminded of how lucky I am when a scene like this evolves while in the middle of harvesting. How lucky we are not to have plant gobbling machines devouring the place. We remove the nuts, and return the shells to the orchard. The sheep consume the leaves and return those back to the orchard in a usable form for the trees.
This is how it should be - in my view.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sheep in Autumn Orchard

As the leaves drop with shaking or the natural effects of autumn they are pounced on by the flock of sheep in the orchard. This breed is uniquely South African and bred for mutton specifically. My father was one of the founder members at the start of the breed. They crossed the indigenous Persian fat tailed sheep with the Dorset Horn from the UK and gave the result the name "Dorper". It is a hardy sheep resistant to disease with excellent mutton quality.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Autumn in the Roux Pecans orchard

We had some chilly weather with rain over the week-end and the autumn colours are really pleasant.
Some varieties turn yellow sooner than others. In these photos the Pawnee have turned but the Wichita and Choctaw are still determined to make summer last!!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Roux Pecans in Business Day "Exporter" 5.5.2008

Business Day 5th May 2008

SA Exporter
Posted to the web on: 05 May 2008Nurturing an organic business with credibility

Penny Haw discovers a farmer nutty enough to produce and export organic pecans
AGRICULTURISTS will tell you that pecans are difficult to produce successfully in SA. The trees require particularly long summers with exceptionally high temperatures and extremely low temperatures during very short winters.
Most tellingly, pecan trees — which only begin yielding nuts in their eighth or ninth year — demand more water than is widely available in the country. Experts in agriculture will also tell you that organic farming is problematic, risky, expensive and time-consuming.
But Hopetown farmer Chris Roux has been contradicting these viewpoints for almost a decade and cannot produce enough of SA’s only European Union (EU) certified organic pecans, branded Roux Pecans, to meet the demands of his primary markets in Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway.
He made the decision, in the late 1990s, that going the organic route was not only the responsible thing to do, but also that it made the most commercial sense. It was not, however, easy to convince others of his philosophy.
“Even now, farmers are not encouraged to farm organically in SA,” he says. “Fertilis er suppliers, machinery companies and other big cogs in the agricultural wheel want us to believe we cannot do without them and their hi -tech products. Banks have (antiquated) models that they absolutely have to abide by without the smallest departure, ever. These institutions cannot, or are not allowed, to imagine that a farmer who wants to do things differently can be successful.
“So it’s something you have to go out on a limb for if you believe in it.”
Roux was determined to make a success of organic crop growing and production. After studying at Glen College of Agriculture near Bloemfontein, Roux began to question contemporary agricultural methods. He wanted to farm as naturally as possible and recognised that his family’s farm, Ramah — located on the banks of the Orange River in the Northern Cape — was geographically and biologically ideal for pecans. Roux saw the potential of producing quality nuts with minimal intervention and so, in 1978, planted 5000 trees on 50ha.
In 1999 Roux’s uncontaminated, preservative-, pesticide- and residue-free pecans became the first EU certified Ecocert pecan nuts from Africa. In 2001 the farm met the even more stringent standards set by the Swiss authority, Bio Suisse. Today he produces in excess of 100 tons of pecan kernels each year and is preparing to plant another 2000 trees. The nuts are sold in ready-to-use vacuum packed units of 250g or 5kg blocks, in whole and half kernel options.
Ecocert certification means the farm qualifies to use the term “organic” to describe the entire process , from bud break in spring, through all agricultural procedures, harvesting and processing, to the delivery of the kernel in its marketing to all EU countries.
Bio Suisse certification means Roux Pecans meet Switzerland’s exacting organic standards that measure and monitor the natural diversity of the farm, and the absence of chemically synthesized pesticides, fertilisers, genetic engineering methods and unnecessary additives such as flavourings and colourings. Non- aggressive processing of foodstuffs is also essential to Bio Suisse certification.
Roux, who laments the fact the word “organic” is used with impunity in SA (with such fervour, in fact, that he has drastically limited his supply to local markets), believes that formal certification is essential to advance environmental and social responsibility.
“If you are in the business of marketing products that lean on a word like ‘organic’, credibility is challengeable,” he says. “Certification is about credibility. Reliable accreditation is regularly measured, consistent and should eliminate subjective discrimination. If you make claims about your products, then I believe it is essential a third party provides independent confirmation of these claims. We owe this to our markets and consumers. It’s the only way we can hope they will take organic farming and production seriously.”
Roux believes that the standards set by the EU via Ecocert certification have been painstakingly and expertly developed, and that they are comprehensive and relevant to SA producers.
“Why reinvent the wheel?” he asks. “SA should adopt the EU regulations. After all, the work has already been done. They have taken into account their entire area’s race, creed, language, cultural and economic differences — and it works. There’s no reason it should not work in this country. But instead, there is a drive in SA to lower the standards required to use the term ‘organic’ in marketing, allegedly to lower costs and make it easier for inexperienced farmers to attain certification.
“This is not only exploitation of consumers. It also misleads producers because credible organic farming is not more expensive than the alternative and second , it limits the likelihood producers will be able export their produce labelled ‘organic’. It just won’t be up to scratch.”

Monday, April 28, 2008

"Organic" Standards

Last night the investigative TV programme "Carte Blanche" did a feature on the quality and standards of the beaches in Durban.

The gist of the issue is that Durban is a high profile tourist destination in South Africa and a centre for large conferences and of course a flag-ship destination for the 2010 World Cup soccer event in South Africa, and as such a standard of excellence is required to maintain the reputation, if not for run of the mill South Africans!!

In Europe at least the beaches and beach fronts have a standard of excellence called "Blue Flag".
There is a standard regarding faeces count permissible per measure in the water as an example. There is a standard regarding the pollution on the beaches and the sea, and many other factors of course.
If the standards are met, the beach is accredited with "Blue Flag" status and users of the facilities can recognize the level of safety.

It transpires that the beaches and facilities in Durban fall way short of the standard and have lost their "Blue Flag" status.
City authorities replied that possibly the "Blue Flag" status is too high and we (South Africa) will have our own standard.

It is almost too absurd to find credible. They are suggesting that we don't mind swimming in more shit than Europeans do.

By the same measure, the standard of what is and what is not "organic" can be considered.
There are many standards and measures to use "the word" Organic.

The EU has a standard that all the countries that make up the EU have signed up to.
To market "Organic" anything in the EU you must comply to this minimum at least.

South Africa is considering it's own standard - because the EU version is too strict.

I rest my case.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Fruit to Bag

The pecan fruit is a green spongy material that is incredibly bitter to the taste and has so much tannin in it that the juice stains your hands.

Finally the "fruit" dries and splits along the seams to expose the seed inside. Now the kernel begins to dry, and finally it falls to the ground after a week or two suspended in the "shuck"

The kernel is removed from the nut and packed into neat 5kg rectangular blocks.
Roux Pecans are proud of the result!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Roux Pecans preparing orchard floor for harvesting

The top picture illustrates the orchard floor before we slash the grass and undergrowth

The second photo shows the result of the slashing process. The grass is left to rot. We introduce a
flock of sheep to keep the grass low until the first cold snap.

The third is Chris Roux - the farmer himself!! I really enjoyed an hour on the tractor this morning showing Simon the inns and outs of getting under the trees. Very hot and humid. The sky shows the humidity and storms brewing. We need some rain again!!

Ramah - Front of House

Richard Attwell, previous owner of Ramah at the front door of Ramah house during the Anglo Boer War (1899 - 1902). His sons sold the farm to Chris Roux, my grandfather in 1925. The door is the same and so was the shape of the house. There was not much garden then !!

While there are pictures of crashing down trees at the back of the house, it is time there is one of the front of the house seeing there is none to date.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Electricity Supply to jeopardize expansion at Roux Pecans?

Due to bad planning and not reacting to timeous warning, the South African Government has made certain that there will be a lack of reliable supply of electricity until at least 2013.

It may mean that the expansion of the orchard cannot happen if we cannot get a transformer upgrade for increased supply. Using diesel motors is a scenario that we do not want to turn to - for many reasons. Among others are management, maintenance and cost of engines, besides the burning of diesel, and that escalating price in $US and a depreciating ZAR.

President Mbeki apologized that he and his ministers did not take heed of the warnings given them in 1996 that the country needed investment in infrastructure to deliver increasing demand from our expanding economy.

What is it with politicians that they think that they would know better than experts in the field, or any field of expertise other than being a politician?

It appears that one does not need much expertise to be a politician in South Africa anyway. Historically and current. They are and have been a blight on our country.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Slashing bush for new development

The pictures are self explanatory.
Simon is busy slashing the Salsola to a manageable height. Most of the bush is moribund old hardwood with few young fresh shoots growing from it. It is a very pallatable and highly nutritous feed for all animals.

The slashing causes the bush to grow vigourously and fresh. We don't intend removing it but rather, it can stay there as groundcover. We try to disturb the topsoil as little as possible. We will run a ripper along and across the rows before planting the trees to loosen any compaction.

New Development Progress and Orchard View

I can't get the pictures aligned properly and apologize for that.
Top left to right is a progression as is bottom left.

The bush (Salsola) has been cut and many of the trees have been removed, as seen in an earlier post