For the past 50 years, Karel Williams has made his mark in and around the Welgevallen Experimental Farm in Stellenbosch. He was only fifteen years old when he started working there on 22 July 1969. At the end of December, the 65-year old officially retires from service to Stellenbosch University's Department of Agronomy.
When Williams started his career, the experimental farm was still run by the State. It was taken over by the SU Faculty of AgriSciences in 1974.
Williams says his first job was in the dairy on the experimental farm. One of his first responsibilities was to handle the cream separator. After a few short years he moved to the wheat testing department, led by Prof Eddie Laubscher. There he helped on the fields and in the glasshouses, doing everything from planting to harvesting and weighing seeds.
For the last decade or so he has been working in Welgevallen's vegetable greenhouses. He has been the right hand to many a researcher or student studying the cultivation of vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers in the controlled environment of a greenhouse tunnel. Over the years he also has had to show the ropes to many newcomers to the experimental farm.
Karel also has green fingers and have over the years established quite a vegetable garden on the grounds.
"I grow green beans, potatoes, onions – anything that you can't easily grow in tunnels," he says.
Williams was born on the Muratie wine farm outside Stellenbosch. For most of his working life, he also lived on Welgevallen. A few years ago Williams moved to Happy Valley near Blackheath. His younger brother, James, is also employed at Welgevallen.
Williams officially retires at the end of December. "I hope to still be able to come and help out for a day or two per week," he says about his retirement plans.
A ceremony was held for Williams last week by the Department of Agronomy and the Faculty of AgriSciences. During the function, Prof Danie Brink, dean of the Faculty of AgriSciences, thanked Williams for his loyalty to SU, and for his 50 golden years of service. He was also awarded a certificate to acknowledge his five decades of service.
- Photo: Karel Williams of the Department of Agronomy was recognised for his 50 years of service. It was presented to him by Prof Danie Brink (left), dean of the Faculty of AgriSciences, and Dr PJ Pieterse of the Department of Agronomy. Photo: Gunnar Sigge