WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU’VE EVER RECEIVED?
Be consistent in everything you do. It has been my motto.
IF THERE WAS ONE THING YOU COULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
My biggest mistake was thinking that, when you borrow money, it should be as little as possible. But borrowing too little can be costly too. You need to borrow based on the farm’s requirements, not what you think you’ll be able to pay back. Years ago, when the Land Bank offered the Retail Emerging Markets (REM) package for smallholders at a subsidised 4% interest rate, I lent little money. I should have got more and taken advantage of the low interest.
YOUR BIGGEST SUCCESS TO DATE?
Being able to build the operation to this scale at my age is one thing I’m particularly proud of. Now I can go bigger without any doubt in my mind. We’ll be adding 40 more tunnels every year for the next five years. I’m not worried – age is still on my side.
WHO HAS MADE THE MOST IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTION TO YOUR BUSINESS?
My parents. I also got support from mentors, such as the agriculture stalwart and business pioneer Dr Sam Motsuenyane, who also farms in Winterveldt. I have various people mentoring me on different aspects of the business.
HOW DO YOU GET ALONG WITH YOUR NEIGHBOURS?
We have a good relationship with all the farmers, who are predominantly black veteran farmers. Besides Dr Motsuenyane, both the late PAC stalwart Dr Philip Kgosana and Dr Richard Maponya, who also passed away earlier this year, farmed in Winterveldt and had a major influence on my business.
WAS IT A STRUGGLE TO GET FINANCING? DO YOU HAVE ANY TIPS FOR UPCOMING FARMERS?
It is always a big struggle to get financing as an emerging farmer, especially with our development finance institutions. My advice is always to understand your business’ financial needs and borrow money according to those needs.
HOW INVOLVED ARE INPUT SUPPLIERS LIKE FERTILISER COMPANIES IN YOUR BUSINESS?
We run a highly technical operation, so we need a good relationship with input suppliers who have better knowledge of their products and how to maximise their potential.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU OFFER THE MINISTER OF AGRICULTURE?
Give the real farmers land with title deeds so they can invest their money and grow their businesses. Also, the minister should be strategic in her support of black farmers. She cannot give a blanket solution to all of them. Make funding available at low lending rates – some farmers don’t need handouts, just cheaper finance, which they will pay back.