Attention to detail matters in farming

Published: 12 December 2023

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The American evangelist, Charles Swindoll, once said that the difference between something good and something great is attention to detail. Paying attention to detail and remaining focused on his goal of becoming a fully-fledged commercial farmer, helped Philani Khoza (36) become the 2023 PGP Potential Commercial Farmer of the Year.

He got his motivation to farm and basic knowledge of farming while studying agricultural management at a college in Mooi River. After graduating, he worked on several commercial farms, but wanted to try his hand at being a ‘real farmer’. Although he lacked grain farming experience, he decided to start planting a single hectare when he returned home in 2014. At this stage his path crossed with PGP. ‘This relationship has been fantastic,’ says Philani.

Once he became part of the PGP Farmer Development Programme, he received all the information and training he required. Philani started planting a single hectare and has successfully grown to the current 82 ha he now plants. He farmed with livestock as well, but due to high levels of theft in the area, he decided to focus on crops. ‘Farming is different. There are many challenges, and the challenges change with every season, but I find this exciting.’

The 2022/2023 season offered him quite a bit of excitement with all the challenges he had to face. ‘It was a tough season which required quick thinking. Due to the heavy rainfall during the season, I was compelled to plant outside the planting window, which led to more challenges.’ Before the maize was ready to be harvested, cattle from the communal area got into the field and Philani was forced to get workers in to pick the crops by hand to avoid big losses. He still managed to produce 5,5 t/ha of maize and 1 t/ha of soybeans.

He hopes that he will be able to stick to his planned planting date for the 2023/2024 season and that the new season will be a better one – although each challenge offers him the opportunity to grow and develop into a better farmer.

PHILANI’S STORY

What factors contributed to your success?
Attention to detail is extremely important to me. I think my studies in agricultural management contributed to this. I am also focused on growth – I am trying not to deviate from that goal at all, no matter how many challenges I face. Gaining knowledge played a vital role in my success. I am also able to make decisions on my own. There are so many decisions that you have to make as a farmer and even though my mentor plays a huge role and helps me with many decisions, I can make it independently as well.

Why did you choose farming?
My father, Derrick, is a business man and owner of several liquor stores where the whole family works. I found the work in the family liquor stores too monotonous. I chose farming because I love the outdoors and the variety of things one can do in a day.

What are your plans for the future?
In the short term, I would like to increase my leasing hectares and in the medium term, I hope to continue moving up the commercial farming ladder. Hopefully acquiring my own land is not too far in the future.

FARM FACTS

Farm: Communal land in Dukuza
Nearest town: Bergville
Region: KwaZulu-Natal
Size: 82 ha – plants 40 ha soybeans and 42 ha maize
Type: Crops: maize and soybeans

PGP’S CONTRIBUTION

• Joined PGP in 2014
• Mentored by Paul Wiggill and Graeme Engelbrecht
• Member of Dukuza study group

Training courses completed:
Has completed several courses including:
• Introduction to maize
• Introduction to soybeans
• Introduction to farm management and farm finance
• Farming for profits

A mentor’s view:
Graeme Engelbrecht, regional development manager at PGP’s Dundee office, says that Philani is very level-headed and has a good grasp of working hard to achieve things. ‘He is well-balanced in his decision-making with a strong focus on achieving the objective. Philani also has strong family values as he comes from an honest, hardworking family.’

Thank you to these partners who play a vital role in the success of the PGP Farmer Development Programme – AB InBev, Bayer, Corteva, the Maize Trust, the Oil and Protein Seeds Development Trust, Pannar, PepsiCo, SACTA, the Sasol Trust and Standard Bank.