The idea for the SASTA Field Day was born soon after reading an article on the innovative farming strategies that won Brad O’Neill the prestigious award of Kwanalu young farmer of 2021. SASTA members who signed up for the excursion to the Seafield Farm in the KZN Midlands were keenly interested in these innovative farming strategies and, of course, the promise of the rum tasting.
Brad and Marisa O’Neill were our gracious hosts for the day and gave SASTA members a very warm welcome and a most enjoyable day out of the office. Brad always had a keen interest in craft rum production and, when he took over operations at the Seafield farm in 2018, he started planning the Sugar Baron Craft Distillery. The distillery honours the memory of his father, the late Roger O’ Neill.
Brad explained how he carefully manages variety selection at the Seafield farm with the help of SASRI Extension and Research Specialists. Every batch of Sugar Baron rum is produced with the utmost attention to detail, and SASTA members got a first-hand chance to observe “from field to glass” as Brad gave us a personal guided tour of his operations. Juice is extracted, fermented, distilled and bottled on site from freshly harvested sugarcane to produce an excellent and unique-tasting rum.
SASTA members were later rewarded with a rum tasting session in the Barrel Room. SASTA thanks Brad and Marisa O’Neill for an informative and enjoyable visit and we wish them continued success with their craft distillery.
Don’t feel too sad if you missed out on this field day as Brad will be presenting at the upcoming SASTA Congress (16-18 August, 2022) and, if we ask nicely, he may bring some rum for a tasting!
By Sumita Ramgareeb, (Chair, SASTA Conference Organising Committee)