Celebrating the ‘masters in the art of grain farming’


Valerie Cilliers, editor,SA Graan/Grain,
Helenus Kruger (photos)

‘Tonight we celebrate the achievements of fellow South Africans who have excelled in their field – they are the masters in the art of grain farming.’ With these words, Derek Mathews (vice-chairperson, Grain SA) set the stage for the 2019 Grain SA awards ceremony, held on 25 October at the Birchwood Hotel. It was a glamorous affair, filled with accolades for the men and women who are directly and indirectly involved in ensuring that grain production in South Africa remains sustainable.

Antonie Delport, managing director of Syngenta, sponsor of the evening, said in his keynote address that agriculture needs to be celebrated more often. ‘When I see the progress that is made in one year, the technological advancements and the lives that are touched by this industry – I realise that agriculture deserves a celebration of note.’ And a celebration of note it was, with Darling Cellars and Ford being the proud supporting sponsors of the occasion.

One of the highlights of the evening was the announcement of the Grain SA/Syngenta Grain Producer of the Year 2019. In his introduction, Jaco Minnaar (chairperson, Grain SA) quoted Japanese farmer and philosopher, Masanobu Fukuoka, who said, ‘The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.’

This is no less true for the Grain Producers of the Year, Tonie Linde and Willie Beukes from Haasjeskop Boerdery in Caledon, Western Cape and fellow finalist Bernard Rabe of Rabe Boerdery in Fochville, North West. In accepting the award, Tonie expressed his appreciation for the evaluation process, saying that participating in the Grain Producer of the Year allowed them to do a lot of introspection. ‘We truly enjoyed being part of this process and I believe that we have grown through it.’


He thanked Grain SA and the sponsors for the wonderful evening, and made special mention of the mentors and specialists who assisted them on their journey. He ascribed their success to the grace and hand of God, the love and support of their wives Carla and Carin as well as the farmworkers who are part of Haasjeskop Boerdery. ‘On our farm there are employees with more than 40 years’ experience and 22 families are part of our undertaking. Thank you to every partner – from the mechanic to every representative in agribusiness and organised agriculture. Without you we do not have a voice.’

Master of ceremonies, Christo van der Rheede (deputy executive director, Agri SA).

As a final word, Tonie shared their secret to success. ‘We farm because we love farming. Like our president I want to say “thuma mina, send me”, as there is a lot of work to be done. Our motto is “think big, but stay small” – that is the secret to the art of farming.’ And as the evening came to a close, all those present knew that these two grain producers will without a doubt continue to contribute greatly to the future of grain production in South Africa.

Another highlight of the Grain SA awards ceremony was the introduction of the Grain SA/Absa/John Deere Financial New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year, Grain SA/Bayer Potential Commercial Farmer of the Year, Grain SA Smallholder Farmer of the Year and the Grain SA/Absa/John Deere Financial Subsistence Farmer of the Year.

Linking to the theme of grain production as an art, keynote speaker Antonie Delport said, ‘There is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.’

They are:

  • Andries van der Poll: Grain SA/Absa/John Deere Financial New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year (250+ ton)
  • Sabatha Ewart Mthethwa: Grain SA/Bayer Potential Commercial Farmer of the Year (35 ha – 250 ton)
  • Mdumiseni Welcome Hadebe: Grain SA Smallholder Farmer of the Year (3 – 35 ha)
  • Mazonya Elijah Dhlamini: Grain SA/Absa/John Deere Financial Subsistence Farmer of the Year (0 – 3 ha)
Tonie Linde, who together with Willie Beukes, received the Grain Producer of the Year award.

In presenting the awards, Dr Klaus Eckstein (chief executive officer, Bayer South Africa) congratulated the farmers and thanked Grain SA for driving the Farmer Development Programme. ‘Through sustainable partnerships we can ensure a healthier world population, address hunger and develop an entrepreneurial spirit in farming. We can no longer tolerate hunger – development must be measured in tons produced. In agriculture we need to embrace sustainable partnerships and cutting-edge technology in order to deliver more with less.’

Antois van der Westhuizen (managing director, John Deere Financial) paid tribute to the farmers, highlighting their ability to adapt and embrace mentorship. ‘There is a lot of value in the collective. The more partners you have in farming, the more successful you will be. It does not matter whether you farm on three or 3 000 ha.”

Tina Playne (executive: Sector and Segments, Absa) applauded the tenacity with which those involved in the Farmer Development Programme contribute to research and development. ‘I am inspired by the tireless effort of Jane McPherson from Grain SA and her team. They have shown that working together leads to creative ideas and better solutions.’ She congratulated the farmers and urged them to stay motivated. ‘Encourage others and flourish where you are,’ she added. She thanked the role-players in agriculture who are transforming the market, creating employment and supporting skills development and training.

Willie Beukes and Tonie Linde (Syngenta/Grain SA Grain Producers of the Year); Andries van der Poll (Grain SA/Absa/John Deere Financial New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year); Mdumiseni Welcome Hadebe (Grain SA Smallholder Farmer of the Year); Mazonya Elijah Dhlamini (Grain SA/Absa/John Deere Financial Subsistence Farmer of the Year) and Sabatha Ewart Mthethwa (Grain SA/Bayer Potential Commercial Farmer of the Year).
Corneil Muller.
Guests were entertained by South African artists Leah and Corneil Muller.
Antonie Delport (left) and Jaco Minnaar (far right) congratulate the finalists of the Grain SA/Syngenta Grain Producer of the Year, Willie and Carin Beukes and Tonie and Carla Linde from Haasjeskop Boerdery and Bernard Rabe from Rabe Boerdery with his fiancé, Katrien Bekker.