Making it big in Karoo
Sheard turns Nieu-Bethesda legacy into successful wool, deli business
A family’s dream to train unskilled single mothers and widows living on their NieuBethesda farm on the delicate craft of wool spinning back in the early 1980s has evolved into a home industry that now also manufactures food products.
The wool was hand-dyed and balled using traditional wheels, and sold to the public. The women were given knitting lessons too.
When her mom died in 1998, leaving this dream only partially realised, the business was revived by Judie Sheard – 10 years later.
Trading under the name Karoo Moon – inspired by the Karoo village in which their hometown is based – Sheard continues to train women from the farm. She said a total of 50 women have so far been trained.
Not long after re-establishing the woolmaking training section, Sheard's business grew enormously.
She now sells delectable home-made rusks, her famous “bread and butter pickles”, a rich, versatile chocolate sauce sold as a “chocolate indulgence” and a unique beetroot jam.
Sold in a number of stores across East London, Sheard's wares are also sold from her Bonnie Doon home. She has a distributor based in Johannesburg too.
“So I started making and selling the pickles in 2000 and that was because my neighbour and I from back on the farm in the Karoo needed to generate some kind of income for ourselves as housewives,” she said.
“The idea to sell pickles came about because of two reasons. First, we were out in such a remote area and we needed to sell something that wouldn't perish on the way to the shops. Secondly, we had a tried and trusted recipe from my mother-in-law which was very popular at the home industry she used to supply back home. Her pickles were so popular that people driving through the Karoo from Johannesburg would always stop to buy some.
“The name is so because the pickles are something nice to have with bread,” Sheard said.
The idea to make the beetroot jam came from an abundance of beetroot on the farm.
“We basically just used what we were producing.
“The chocolate indulgence sauce came as a result of us trying to make something different, and not available in stores.
“It’s basically a chocolate sauce mainly for ice-cream, but people also use it for decorative purposes on desserts.”
Sheard, who now works on her own in the business after her neighbour pulled out of it as partner, said she had received a wonderful response to her products.
She said business is going so well she now travels around the country to sell her products at various markets.
“What makes them really special is that they are all home-made. The wool is natural yarn which is then hand-dyed.
“The rusks are home-made, the pickles are home-made, the sauce is home-made. Nothing can beat that. The best part is that it’s all made locally too,” Sheard added...