A winner for Excelsior!

Andries Baardman has a motto in life: take every opportunity with both hands. And it seems to be working. Last year, he was named Plaaswerker van die Jaar (Farm worker of the year) in the  Algemene Werker (General Worker) category.

The 35 year old, who has worked at Excelsior farm for 16 years, is married with four children, the oldest of whom works with his father.  In order to be put forward for the first round of the competition, which is held locally in Robertson, you need to be recommended by your peers. Andries is well liked by those he works with – he is particularly known for being active in the community, helping to resolve petty disputes and giving people accurate information about their legal rights and their corresponding responsibilities.

He feels he left school too early – so he went back, fitting his studies around his work. Through ABET (Adult Basic Education and Training), and a dollop of hard work and determination, he was able to complete his matric exams. Since then he has been running ABET classes twice a week after work for  the last five years giving level 1 support to those who would like to improve their numeracy, literacy and communication skills and level 4 support for life orientation, ancillary health care, travel and tourism. Why does he spend his free time like this? He wants to inspire people about their future and help them to fulfil their potential.

Once he had passed the first hurdle of being nominated, Andries needed to go for an interview in Robertson, which he sailed through. This was followed by finals in Bellville where there were 198 other candidates from around the country, each of whom had won in their area. Asked how he felt being faced (twice!) by a panel of judges and barrage of questions, he replied ‘Calm. I enjoyed it. I felt supported and that I knew how to market myself and respond to their questions.’

Despite his self-confidence, neither the Robertson or the Bellville panels could have been a breeze. They asked Andries myriad details about the farm; how much land is under cultivation (220 hectares), the percentage of red versus white cultivars (70% red to 30 % white), how to prune vines, what are the most popular wines (Excelsior Merlot and Excelsior Chardonnay, both of were awarded Michelangelo silver medals). They asked him health and legal questions; what can happen if you don’t turn up for work two days in a row without an explanation, how many hours a week can children under 16 be employed for, is it safe for pregnant women to drink alcohol, what do they risk if they do. The panels were also intrigued to know more about him.  Apart from being very impressed by his contribution to the community, they were particularly interested to know his method of resolving disputes and dissolving tensions – simply listen to both sides of the argument, talk to both parties to discuss a compromise and in the rare cases it can’t be reached, refer it to a supervisor. Andries laughs as he recalls the puzzled judges asking him if he was actually a school teacher in disguise, so impressed were they by his eloquence and knowledge.

Andries is the only winner of this award from the Langeberg region. He won R1,500 in the Robertson semi final and R3,000 in the Bellville final along with a pair of very attractive trophies. He has been asked not to come back…to give other people a fair chance!

Needless to say we are delighted for Andries and proud of his achievements.

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