Venishree Mayer: From automotive marketing star to producer of star ADHARA premium extra virgin olive oil!



I met Venishree Mayer of Fraaigelegen Farm in Tulbagh with her husband Jürgen for the first time last Saturday, but have connected with her since I started the Lockdown Food Delivery and Collection Restaurant Facebook Group in May, being a very generous sponsor of her beautiful chic olive oil bottles as prizes, as well as in recognition of the Cape’s top women restaurateurs for Women’s Day. Venishree and Jürgen shared their story over lunch about moving from Germany to Tulbagh five years ago, and in creating their award-winning ADHARA premium extra virgin olive oil.

Venishree and Jürgen met whilst working at Mercedes-Benz in Pretoria, from where they moved to the UK, Jürgen studying Law at Cambridge University while Venishree supported Oxfam in its marketing. They moved to Germany, Venishree working at General Motors, followed by Kia, and learning Spanish and Italian in-between too, Jürgen teasing her about always being busy. A number of family tragedies made the couple reevaluate its life, wanting to live an ‘easier life’. Little did they know how much work their Fraaigelegen Farm they bought in Tulbagh would challenge them in renovating the self-catering cottages on the farm, and then to get the vineyards and olive orchards back into shape again. The olive varietals they use in their olive oil blend are FS17, Leccino, Frantoio, and Mission.

Jürgen’s grandfather had been a vintner in Germany, but the couple had no farming experience at all.  They learnt a lot by reading up about grape and olive oil farming, and the couple praised the amazing support they received from their neighbouring farmers, encouraging them to not give up when things looked daunting at the start of their farming journey. The location of the farm was attractive to them, grapes already having been sold to Adi Badenhorst, and having Fable Mountain Vineyards nearby, at which Chris and Andrea Mullineux had previously worked, gave them a good indication of the terroir quality.  They now supply Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Petit Verdot, and Carignan grapes to Paserene outside Franschhoek. Quality over Quantity has been the credo of the Mayer Family at Fraaigelegen. Giving back to the community, through their support of a Children’s Home in Tulbagh, is part of their credo too.

The turn-around came when they won an award from SA Olive in 2018, oil from their third harvest receiving the accolade. It allowed them to connect with other players in the industry too, important for Venishree especially, as the industry still is very male-dominated. She is proud to be the first Indian olive oil producer in our country.  Last year Venishree became a Board member and Director of SA Olive. They are also marketing ADHARA internationally through a new online shop which they have created, called Cape Goods, to which they plan to add other authentic premium goods from South Africa, including wines, teas, and decor items.

I asked why the couple chose ADHARA as the brand name for their olive oil. They explained it as follows: They had noticed a very bright star above their farm during the olive harvest, and Jürgen found it to be the Adhara star in the Sirius constellation, which can be seen in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, representing the origins of Jürgen and Venishree, respectively. In Arabic the word means ‘virgin’, this being a further motivation to make this their brand name, both being virgin olive and wine grape producers. On the pack they have added a Springbok, to denote the South African origin of their product, as well as the Adhara star. Last month their bottle won Best Design in Africa at the Olio Nuovo 2020 Southern Hemisphere Competition.

POSTSCRIPT 28 August 2020: Yesterday SA Oil presented its 2020 Awards. Fraaigelegen Farm, producers of ADHARA, won two Silver Awards, for its Directors Reserve and Blend, and a Gold Award for its Favolosa. 


ADHARA EVOO, Fraaigelegen Farm, Tulbagh, Cell 071 404 2766. Instagram: @adharaevoo @fraaigelegenfarm @capegoods 


About Chris von Ulmenstein

Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: Tel +27 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@Ulmenstein Facebook: Chris von Ulmenstein, My Cape Town Guide/Mein Kapstadt Guide Instagram: @Chrissy_Ulmenstein @MyCapeTownGuide

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