Progress is impossible without change

Published: 31 August 2023

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If Organ Gasetswele Serema (45) was afraid of change, he would not have been the successful farmer he is today. Organ was mentored by his late father Petrus from a very young age. Petrus was one of the top farmers of the old Bophuthatswana and ignited this passion for farming in his son. They worked side by side when Organ started farming with his father in 2001. ‘Even though my father was a very good farmer, the methods he used was old. The implements were old and old hybrids were planted.’

Organ says that after his paths crossed with Grain SA, he started developing into a better farmer. He says that Grain SA played a huge part in his progress and success – especially as the information and training he received through the study group sessions opened his eyes to more advanced agricultural practices.

‘Grain SA taught me new methods of farming and once I started applying these new methods, I saw a big difference in my crops. When I started farming, I was still using old methods, so my yield on maize was about 2 t/ha and about 0,5 t/ha on sunflower. Currently my respective yields are about 3 t/ha on maize and 1,5 t/ha on sunflower. It just shows that sometimes you need to change to improve.’

The on-farm support and mentoring he receives from Du Toit van der Westhuizen, regional development manager in North West, has been of inestimable value. ‘I met Du Toit in 2014 and he has been an amazing mentor. He is very involved in my farming operation. If I have a problem, I let him know – and when I look again, he is on the farm to help me.’

Organ recently introduced soybean and dry bean production to his farming enterprise and is planting about 190 ha in total in a crop rotation system. He is part of the Schoeman Group’s Zamukele project, so his dry white beans are delivered to the bean plant in Delmas on a contract basis.

ORGAN’S STORY

Why did you become a farmer?
I was raised in a farming environment and my late father played a huge role in my career choice. He introduced me to farming and I saw that one can make a living out of farming if you put your mind to it and work hard. My father was the one who motivated me to apply for a lease from the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly before I moved onto Bethlehem Farm.

What is the best thing about farming?
It is wonderful to know that what I am doing is making a difference in the country – I am part of the chain that feeds the nation. The fact that I contribute to food security in South Africa, motivates me to continue farming.

And the most difficult?
Access to funding remains a struggle and then the things we have no control over, like the weather, make farming difficult. One year there is too much rain, the next year too little. You never know what to expect – you just have to keep on doing your best. There will be struggles in life, one just can’t quit.

What is your dream for the future?
My biggest dream is to own my farm and not just lease it from the department. I want to hold the title deed for my own farm that I bought in my hands. And one day I would like to be more than just a commercial farmer, but a manufacturer too – I would like to manufacture and package my own products like sunflower oil and maize meal.

FARM FACTS

Farm: Bethlehem Farm
Nearest town: Lichtenburg
Region: North West
Size: 270 ha of arable land
Type: Mainly crops – plants maize, sunflower, soybeans and dry beans in a crop rotation system. Owns 30 sheep which are sold on the informal market to generate an additional income.

GRAIN SA’S CONTRIBUTION

  • Joined Grain SA in 2004
  • Chairman of the Itsoseng study group
  • 250 Ton Club graduate

Training courses completed:
Organ has completed several of the courses, including the following:

  • Introduction courses to maize, sunflower, soybean and sorghum production
  • The advanced courses in maize and sunflower production and marketing
  • Business ethics and farm management
  • Maintenance on tractors and farm implements

A mentor’s view:
Du Toit van der Westhuizen, regional development manager, says Organ is a dedicated, hard-working farmer who likes keeping busy. He is also a problem solver who is not fazed when faced with challenges.