WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST SUCCESS TO DATE?
Improving our average yields from just above 3t/ha to 5.6t/ha. And being a finalist for this year’s Grain SA New Era Farmer award.
AND YOUR BIGGEST MISTAKE?
Planting late, outside the planting window, owing to late rains. I had already prepared the lands and was worried about all costs I had incurred, so I decided to plant anyway. The frost came when the maize was still young and I lost all that money anyway. The lessons I learnt were to prepare on time and not to rush. If planting time has passed, don’t plant.
WHO HAS MADE THE BIGGEST CONTRIBUTION TO YOUR SUCCESS?
My father. He believed in me when nobody else did. He is also known in the district, which gave me a head start so that I didn’t have to start from scratch. His network helped me build the business on what he left me.
WHAT ROLE HAVE NEIGHBOURING COMMERCIAL FARMERS PLAYED IN YOUR JOURNEY?
Over the years my father built great relationships with the farmers in our community. Some are like family. Oom Dawie [van der Merwe] is an old family friend, business partner, mentor and adviser. He even trusted me to look after his farm when he was overseas for three years.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PIECE OF MACHINERY ON YOUR FARM?
It must our planters: the two four-row John Deere N7200 Series planters and the six-row John Deere N7200 Series planter we bought recently. Good planters are like good bulls. They just keep producing!
YOU STRUGGLED TO SECURE FINANCING. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU OFFER ANYONE LOOKING FOR MONEY?
Be patient. Build your financial and bank profile by doing all transactions through the bank. Also, be willing to put skin into your business – your work will speak for itself.
WHY DO YOU THINK IT WAS OMNIA THAT EVENTUALLY GAVE YOU A COMPLETE LOAN?
I’ve been working with them for some time, but not on a big scale. I think they saw my potential when I became the Omnia provincial farmer of the year.
WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO SWITCH TO CONSERVATION TILLAGE?
Conservation tillage cuts costs, but because it improves soils it is also more environmentally friendly.
HOW MUCH DOES YOUR BUSINESS RELY ON INPUT SUPPLIERS, LIKE SEED AND FERTILISER COMPANIES?
They play a significant role on the farm. It makes sense for them not only to sell products to farmers, but also assist them with technical advice and after-sales service on how best to use their products. It ensures them a better return on investment.
IF YOU COULD GIVE THE MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE A SINGLE PIECE OF ADVICE, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Select beneficiaries of farms carefully and on merit. Give title deeds to those who have proven themselves as successful farmers.
HOW IMPORTANT HAS ORGANISED AGRICULTURE, LIKE GRAIN SA, BEEN TO YOUR SUCCESS?
Farmers can learn a lot through these programmes, from skills development to mentorship and other training programmes. They also help you to build networks with fellow farmers, suppliers and other stakeholders.