Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute, Middelburg
Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute, Middelburg

Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute

The Grootfontein Agricultural Development Institute is located outside the town of Middelburg in the Great Karoo, Eastern Cape, South Africa. It is commonly referred to as the “Grootfontein College of Agriculture” or just “Grootfontein”.

Grootfontein was established in 1911 and, as one of the oldest agricultural colleges in South Africa, it has a proud training and research history contributing to the prosperity of livestock farming in the Karoo and other arid regions.

The vision of Grootfontein is to be the world's leading centre of excellence in training, research and extension in small stock and in agricultural production in semi-arid to arid climates.

Key Services

Grootfontein offers a wide range of services in its area of specialisation:

  • Education and Training
  • National Diploma in Agriculture (NQF level 6) presented on-campus
  • Skills training of new farmers and farm labourers (NQF level 2-4) presented off-campus
  • Research & Technology Development
  • Extension and Outreach

Along with the formal training programme, informal training in the form of short courses, extends the training function of the College into the job situation and the practical farming situation. A co-operative effort is imperative in a situation where different institutions and agencies are involved in informal training e.g. in-service training programmes and extension services.

The following short courses are available at Grootfontein for all students:

  • Junior Merino, Dorper and Boer goat judging course
  • Senior Dorper and Boer goat judging course
  • SA Mutton Merino and Dohne Merino courses
  • Large- and Small stock AI courses
  • Pregnancy determination courses
  • Vermin and Sheep dog handling courses

Short courses are also held for the general public and may include subjects like Gas and Arc welding, Wool classing, Artificial Insemination, Pasture management, Medicinal plants and Computer training.

Research

Mission

To support and promote sustainable and prosperous livestock farming in the extensive sheep and goat producing areas of the RSA.

Objectives

  • To develop new technology for sustainable utilization of the natural resources in arid regions
  • To develop and evaluate new technology for increased profitability of sheep and goat farming
  • To breed better adapted sheep and goats
  • To provide a support service to farmers

Services

Basic and applied research is conducted on different aspects of sustainable resource utilization and livestock production on more than 120 localities throughout the RSA. The knowledge gained from the research program forms the backbone of the support services rendered to commercial and emerging farmers. Our services are:

  • Pasture Science and Animal Production research
  • Land use and financial planning
  • Advice on livestock management, breeding and nutrition
  • Livestock improvement projects
  • Farmers’ days
  • On-farm advice, demonstrations and short courses

Clients

  • Sheep and Goat farmers
  • Communities in communal farming areas of the Eastern and Northern Cape
  • Wool, Mohair and Red Meat Industry
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Sheep and Goat Breeders’ Societies
  • Provincial Departments of Agriculture

ABOUT HOW IT ALL STARTED

After the Anglo Boer War the farm Grootfontein in Middelburg, Eastern Cape district was bought by the British Department of War in order to establish a peace-keeping force in the area. This was the beginning of the military era of Grootfontein that lasted from 1903 till 1910.

During this period most of the soldiers lived in tents until prefabricated houses were made of wood and corrugated iron. Some of these houses are still in use.

Grootfontein Grave Yard

About 7 000 troops from the Third Manchester Regiment were stationed at Grootfontein. Some of them were married, so about 3 000 women and children also lived at Grootfontein. The infrastructure was well-developed and included schools, a church, hospital and housing for the troops and their families. The troops brought 2 000 horses with them.

The first military cemetery was located to the east of the “Droë” river and was closed in October 1905 due to the spreading of contagious diseases. The other military cemetery was established to the east of Oorlogspoort, about 5 km (8 miles) from the military camp.

From 1908 the troops were disbanded. In July 1910 the Union of South Africa took control of the farm after which the Grootfontein School of Agriculture was established in 1911. The first principal was Mr R W Thornton. His fist task was to renovate the brick houses. The existing wood and corrugated iron buildings were used as stables, shearing-shed, dairy building and offices.

General Louis Botha, Prime Minister visited Grootfontein in 1912. The venue for the school was decided, and building started in 1913. Botha appointed Mr Andries van der MErwe as farm manager.

Visits by prior arrangement only: Elana Kitching – Tel: 049 – 84 21113 / 083 687 3171

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