South Africa’s export farms have shifted from racialised paternalism to corporate managerialism. But how have workforce dynamics changed? This article offers an ethnographic perspective on agriculture on the transient Zimbabwean border. An ‘actor-centred’ approach examines the causes and extent of transformation. Who furthers managerial logics? Why? With what effects? White farmers emphasise impersonal, rationalised business for diverse reasons. What looks like neoliberalisation is an accidental result. Managerialism itself has limited effect on labour arrangements. Workers’ hierarchies and cross-border networks are built on different principles from global supply chains. From within each network, it is as if the other were invisible.