Up Close and Personal with Bheki Mhlane

What is best advice you’ve ever been given?

My dad always reminded me that a farm only belongs to you momentarily, so you shouldn’t be selfish. Make sure you hand it over in a better state than when you received it. That’s what drives me – being able to hand it to my kids in a better state than when I got it.

Is there anything you would have done differently if you had the chance?

I should have come back to the farm sooner. Trying to run the farm remotely delayed me.

Your single biggest success so far?

Managing to stay afloat without having to borrow money when I took over the farm and had no cash.

Who’s made the biggest contribution to your success to date?

Besides my dad, there are a few local farmers who were friends of his. Tim Crooks of Crooks Brothers has helped me a lot and trusted me with things other farmers never even would have considered.

Do you have a good relationship with the neighbouring farmers?

Great. Most of them are my dad’s old pals.

Was financing a struggle?

Financing was a big issue while the estate was being wound down. I have not borrowed a cent in the four years that I have been running this farm. My advice would be not to be afraid of borrowing money – but be very cautious.

What role do input suppliers played in your operation?

They play a big role in my business. I truly have been fortunate to have people who are always open and honest with me. They have not tried only to sell me products, even when I didn’t need them.

Do you have any advice for the minister of agriculture?

I would like black farmers who didn’t get farms from the state but used their own money to be treated equally and get the same support as the others. We often feel like outcasts because we don’t get any support from the state.

Has organised agriculture played any part in your success?

It has played a role in my growth. It opened my eyes to a lot of things I had no knowledge or expertise of, often because I didn’t know where to find the correct information. It has also united us farmers and shown us that we all face the same challenges.

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