Create ample shadow for the future

Jannie de Villiers
CEO, Grain SA

A team from Grain SA recently attended the annual Global Leadership Summit. One of the quotes that gave me renewed energy and vision was the remark by Todd Henry: ‘A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.’

My Grandfather Brandkop was the one who taught me about planting trees, and my father about carrying water, pruning and cutting off branches. Plant a tree if you want to say ‘thank you’ to someone in a special way, I was taught. I have planted many trees in my life. Later even in the park down the street, because there was just no more space around the house. These days it goes more slowly, because it is more difficult to dig holes without my sons close by. And yet I have planted about ten new monkey thorn trees last year without a guarantee that I will one day sit in their shade. Regrettably, I cannot just write about planting trees in a grain magazine.

It is once more that time of the year when grain and oilseeds are planted and harvested. However, there is also time to reflect on the year that has passed and the one that lies ahead. In the grain industry we are establishing a culture of planting trees. We invest in people and their expertise to solve the complex problems of our time with creative thinking and better relationships. We experience many difficult meetings where branches that are growing wildly have to be pruned. We award bursaries to young scientists to study further and mentor new farmers on a large scale. Hundreds of emerging farmers are trained to obtain commercial yields from every hectare. That is how Grain SA and its members plant trees for shade for future generations. The expansion of our Grain Academy to train leaders not only for the grain industry, but for the entire agricultural sector, is another new tree that will one day provide shade to many people in the country.

But trees are not planted only far away. They are also planted close to you. What will those little trees around your table look like after 2019? Have they been properly pruned with the right Word, or have your own words broken their branches to such an extent that they are barely bearing fruit? Our own unchecked words can so easily break a tender new shoot and leave a permanent scar. The instruction of the Word is to speak only what is good and constructive. In times with more problems than solutions, I am freshly motivated by the appeal to leaders worldwide: ‘Leaders, make things better!’ We cannot just sit back because there is an abundance of problems. That is probably the easy way out, but then there will be no shade for our children to sit in one day.

The results or fruit everyone would like to have, only come when the roots of the tree are well anchored in a belief system and values turn into actions so that everyone can enjoy the fruit. We know so well what the impact of a good fertilisation plan is on our crop, but we are tight-fisted with the ‘fertiliser’ of good and constructive words to each other – as if we are afraid somebody else will bear good fruit! The invoice for such fertiliser is small. In the end it costs nothing. Let us hand out a bunch of bags of fertiliser this summer so that the community can bear heaps of fruit and there can be ample shade for everyone in the future.