A finalist who is proud to be a farmer

Published: 29 February 2024

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Jacob Tshabalala (34) was one the finalists in the 2023 PGP/Absa/John Deere Financial New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year category. He believes his success is built on three cornerstones – passion, good planning and learning through engagement with others. His passion for farming was ignited through his father, David Tshabalala. David still lends a helping hand on the farm tending to the livestock.

A fellow farmer, Vuyani Lolwane, introduced Jacob to Grain SA. ‘He came to me one day and said I was doing a good job, but that I could do much better if I joined Grain SA!’ Vuyani was the winner of this category in 2018, but sadly passed away due to Covid-19 complications in 2022. Jacob says he knows his friend, mentor and role-model would have been very proud of him. ‘Vuyani was a true inspiration.’ Jacob has immense appreciation for the PGP team who have played a significant role in his success as a farmer. He also benefits from NWK’s young farmers’ programme.

On the 175 ha of communal land of Driehoek Village Trust, Jacob plants maize and sunflower. He started with a mere 15 ha in 2013 and planted 170 ha this year – 60 ha of maize and 110 ha of sunflower. He is slowly growing his operation on both the crop and cattle front and dreams of owning his own land in the future. He realised a yield of 6 t/ha last season, which helped to take care of his production loan and to keep him going. This season he planted later than usual as the rain in North West came late. He also discovered that his soil was acidic and had to apply lime before he could plant. ‘Everything is looking good now. I did my part.’

Jacob uses his own equipment except for harvesting, which is done through contractors. He is also putting away money with NWK and has bought shares to help him in the future with securities. His wife, Lerato, is his right hand in the office and makes sure that all administration is kept up to date. Their young son is already showing a keen interest in farming and Jacob would love to have a third generation Tshabalala farmer. ‘He always wants to come with me to the field, and then starts complaining that he is tired. I am trying to teach him that if you want to be a farmer, you must greet the day early!’

JACOB’S STORY

What is the best and worst thing about being a farmer?
When you get up in the morning you know you can go and do what you love. Nobody has to force me to go to work. I am proud to be a farmer. The worst thing for me is being on communal land as there are no fences. I have to pay people to guard my maize. One day I will have my own farm.

What contributes to a farmer’s success?
A farmer should be self-driven and keen to learn. I talk to a lot of people who know more than me – neighbours, commercial farmers, representatives – because together we make a big engine that moves forward! It is also important to do the right thing at the right time with the right product. People want to take shortcuts, but if your budget only allows for 50 ha, don’t try and plant 100 ha because you will fail. Rather plant 50 ha and produce excellent quality.

How would you motivate the youth to farm?
People have to eat! There isn’t work out there, but there is good quality land available, so come and try your hand at farming. Be your own boss and feed South Africa!

FARM FACTS

Farm: Communal land of Driehoek Village Trust
Nearest town: Lichtenburg
Region: North West
Size: 185 ha – planted 60 ha maize and 110 ha sunflower this season
Type: mixed – crops (maize and sunflower) and a Brahman herd

PGP’S CONTRIBUTION

• Joined Grain SA in 2018
• Lichtenburg study group
• Member of 500 Ton Club: 2022

Training courses completed:
• Introduction to soybeans
• Introduction to maize
• Introduction to dry beans
• Introduction to farm management
• Business ethics and farm management

A mentor’s view:
Du Toit van der Westhuizen, regional development manager in North West, is very proud of Jacob and says that since he attended his first study group meeting in 2018, he has embraced every opportunity to learn and develop as a farmer. ‘Jacob is always open to advice and works hard towards every goal. He is proud to be a farmer.’