My name is Caz Griffin, a farmer’s wife from the Dargle Valley in the Natal Midlands. I started my business, Dargle Valley Pork Products, thirteen years ago.
How did it all start? Here is a much shortened version of my story.
William (my husband) and I live and farm on our family run farm with his parents, where we farm pork and beef. The farm has been in the Griffin family for the last four generations. We both realised for the farming enterprise to support two families that we had to somehow boost the farming income. For a couple of years I nursed, and then gave that up to start a family. My next quest was making pickles and selling them at the local farmers market and from there went into growing flowers in tunnels.
After William and I went on a Holistic Management course, we realised that to make a real difference to our income on the farm we had to add value onto something that we were already producing on the farm. As I love cooking and experimenting, William came up with the idea that I should start making pork pies and market them. So, it was onto the Internet to try and find some recipes and start experimenting with making pies. The first few tries were absolute disasters. Eventually through trail and error I got them right and told William I was ready for my first carcass. The next day a 65kg pig carcass landed on my kitchen table - I got the fright of my life. I did not even know the back end from the front end of a carcass let alone how to cut it up. I called in my ladies that helped me in the garden and house, and they also looked at it with horror. Well a plan had to be made - we got the old band saw from the garage, found an old chart of a pig carcass that the meat board had sent us years before, and we cut the carcass up (I had absolutely no experience in the meat industry). I also realised at this stage that with one carcass I would need to make a lot of pies and the marketing of all these pies was not going to be that easy. So back onto the Internet it was, to find sausage and bacon recipes. Out came the old Kenwood mincer and sausage attachment and we started making sausages and dry cured bacon.
A couple of friends came around for lunch to sample my experiments - they were all really impressed and said they could never buy decent sausages, bacon and fresh pork, and that I should not just stick to pies but do a whole range of products. I made a deal with them that if they bought my first processed carcass I would begin a business. And so it all began, with my first eight orders and my next carcass from William. This time I was a little wiser and got the help of a retired butcher in the area to come in and give my staff and I a few lesson on how we went about cutting up a pig carcass.
We soon grew out of the kitchen and the Kenwood mincer. I borrowed R30 000 from my mother and said “Mum you may never seen this again. I am going to take a chance and go into a male dominated business that I don’t know much about, but I think with my determination and drive I will make it work”. Within three months however, my debt was repaid. William and I enclosed the garage, bought some equipment at auctions and we were in business. Word soon spread. My motto has always been to ‘strive for absolute excellence’ in the pork we were selling to customers, and as we all know, your one unhappy customer will wipe out your hundred happy customers.
My cousin who was selling chickens to housewives in Durban asked me to come on board with her and we could deliver our pork and chicken together. That market has just grown from strength to strength. Word of mouth has been my best marketing tool. I will never forget my first delivery – it was R500, and I said to William if I could just do R1000 a delivery, thereby making R5000 a month, I would be so happy. Well, I have exceeded every expectation I have ever had.
There have been many tears and disasters, however, I am glad to say we have weathered those storms and come out on top.
We now have a small factory on the farm and supply many housewives, lodges, restaurants, farm stalls and bed and breakfasts throughout South Africa. My five factory staff are women with the exception of our driver and a retired butcher that comes in 2 days a week and Lynnie my secretary, manager and anything else she has to be. We all started off with no experience whatsoever but through trail and error have become experts at processing a carcass into a host of excellent products, and they have all empowered themselves by learning skills that they can be really proud of
Please see our price list for all our products and the story at the bottom about our pigs and pork products.
Thank-you and I hope you enjoy our products as much as we do.