Bubbly Bev on the hop as farming bug bites

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Getting down and dirty no problem for this young farmer who organised her own bursary, writes Angela Daniels

She’s the very antithesis of a stereotypical farmer – a bubbly brunette who is all sunshine and smiles as she surveys her hop fields. Barely in her 30s, Beverley Joseph, had to get down and dirty to make it to where she is today.

She’s the kind of woman who, as a girl, organised her own bursary when she went cap in hand to explain to farmers why they should invest in her future.

The farmer who believed in her and gave her the bursary that helped her study viticulture at Stellenbosch University must be sitting back today happy in the knowledge he changed the course of a determined young woman’s life.

“It was a case of survival. My dad was a contractor and my mom a housewife,” Joseph, 32, said.

“There was just no money for university but I was determined to go. I didn’t want to struggle from day to day.

“I went from farm to farm and had lots of nos but when I got to Paul Culver’s farm he looked at my marks and said ‘there’s no way you are not going to university’.”

One of seven children, Joseph, who went to school in Grabouw, didn’t know hop from hemp – two plants that are actually related – when, while doing her honours, she received a call from a recruiter. There was an opportunity to work for South African Breweries’ hop breeding programme in George.

She quickly crammed for the interview and, being the good student she was, landed the job.

Although she didn’t know anything about hops before the offer, Joseph “instantly fell in love with the crop. It’s so specialised.”

She was based at the SAB Rob Roy Research and Development Centre starting in 2006 where she was responsible for managing the plant breeding programme aimed at producing new hop varieties.

Fast-forward a couple of years and Joseph became part of an SAB programme that helped emerging farmers gain finance to own their own farms.

Now the owner of Uitsig Mountain Estate, a farm “with the best view”, Joseph is not content to just look after herself. “Of course I want my farm to be profitable, but what is really close to my heart is the community,” Joseph said.

“I’ve been thinking about how I can change the behaviour so people don’t survive just day to day.

“There is some open land here and I want to make it available to the community for cash crops.

“I want to tackle alcohol problems that are not just here but in the industry across the country.

“If we can make a small start here it will make a difference,” she said.

Joseph would also like to see her plan rolled out across the country.

A wife, and mom to three-year-old Mika, Joseph is helping to put her siblings through school.

For a woman who is so serious about social ills, Joseph is also full of fun, laughing frequently as she recalls her past and looks to the future.

When it comes to beer, where hops provide the bitterness and aroma, she is a fan of the craft variety.

“I love what they are doing with the hops,” she said.

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