Every farmer needs someone to talk to, whether to get advice or simply to bounce ideas off. And it’s not only young farmers starting out that need someone to talk to from time to time. Most established, successful farmers turn to a trusted adviser for guidance when they’re unsure of a decision or just struggling with a particularly complex problem.
African Farming asked one of our leading wool farmers whose family has been farming for four generations what tips he would offer young farmers at the start of their career:
■ Get a mentor! You must have one person you trust. You cannot take advice from everyone, otherwise, you’ll always be running in different directions.
■ When you’re looking for advice, be careful not to waste people’s time. Make sure you know what you want advice on, and then implement it. In other words, you must want to be helped!
■ Don’t wait for government before getting started. There’s a good chance you will not get any help.
■ Own the land you farm. You cannot develop land that doesn’t belong to you.
■ Live on your farm. Managing a business from a distance is never a good idea, and almost always ends up costing you money.
■ Farming is a long-term investment, not a get-rich-quick scheme. The first generation sets it up, the second generation builds on it, and hopefully the third generation will reap the benefits.
■ Don’t forget: all farmers are capital-rich but cash-poor. Only the third generation will have cash if everything goes well.
■ Understand the concept of time. Put differently, time equals money. For instance, if you have produce like wool lying in a shed somewhere, or maize in a farm silo, it is costing you money. You could have sold it and earned interest on the cash. In a similar way, if you plant late you could end up getting lower yields.