A hero who kept a farmer farming

Published: 1 October 2023

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September’s hero: Du Toit van der Westhuizen

Two men have played a role in the development of Organ Serema (45) as a farmer. The first was his late father, Petrus, who ignited Organ’s passion for agriculture at a very young age. The second is his mentor Du Toit van der Westhuizen (44), Grain SA regional development manager from the Lichtenburg office, who has shaped him into the successful farmer he is today.

Organ Serema nomi­nated Du Toit who has mentored him in the Grain SA Farmer Development Programme since 2012.

Organ met Du Toit in 2012 and says he has been an amazing mentor. ‘He is very involved in my farming operation. The on-farm support and mentoring he has offered me, have been of enormous value. If I have a problem I let him know, and when I look again he is on the farm at my side to help me,’ Organ shares about his mentor and hero.

Joining the Grain SA Farmer Development Programme helped Organ realise how important change can be. Even though his father was one of the top farmers of the old Bophuthatswana, the methods he used were old. Through Du Toit’s guidance his eyes were opened to new (and better) agricultural practices which helped him develop into a better farmer.

When he started farming, his yield on maize was about 2 t/ha and about 0,5 t/ha on sunflower. Through Du Toit’s input and improved agricultural practices, his yields have increased to 3 t/ha and 1,5 t/ha respectively.

Du Toit’s encouragement also prevented Organ from giving up his farming dream during difficult times. ‘When I wanted to give up, he held up my arms, supported me and made sure I kept on farming. I could see a light in the tunnel because of him.’ For these reasons Organ sees Du Toit as his hero in agriculture.

The winner in the My Hero series for September is Du Toit van der Westhuizen, Grain SA regional development manager from the Lichtenburg office.

An inspiring experience
Du Toit is truly a mentor at heart and even decided to turn his farm into an experimental farm where he plants maize, sunflowers, soybeans, groundnuts, potatoes, tef and sugar beans so that his farmers can learn what works and what doesn’t. He also has feedlot cattle and a chicken incubator to teach the farmers the importance of generating cash flow.

To Du Toit the bond formed between a farmer and his mentor is very special, as trust is built up over years. Being part of the Grain SA Farmer Development Programme has been one of Du Toit’s most inspiring experiences. ‘Working with developing farmers has opened my eyes and enriched my life. My reward lies in the inspiration I get from seeing the difference that my involvement makes,’ he shared when he heard about this nomination.