“It is time to start thinking anew and adapting to a changing environment. Farmers need to farm differently than before. You will have to decide on partners who share your vision of a prosperous future,” said Vermeulen. Farmers would not be able to survive the agricultural future alone but would need the strong partnerships provided by organised agriculture. “There is a wonderful future in farming, but we cannot do it alone,” said Wessel Hattingh, chairperson of the Free State Young Farmer Committee.
Agricultural businesses are eager to help farmers who want help. “Everything a young farmer needs to be successful is out there, but it won’t come floating to you. You need to go out and take it,” said Hattingh. It was also important to realise that the future could not be equal to the past and that farming practices needed to adapt to the changing environment, said Vermeulen. “Young farmers should go out and take their own steps. You can’t follow in footprints that were made 20 years ago. Think for yourself and use the knowledge of partners to find a new way of farming.”
Besides partnerships, it was also important that the farming sector – and particularly farmers – started marketing themselves differently. Vermeulen said the majority of South Africans did not have a positive image of farmers. “It’s important to stay true to our key business – food production – but it has also become paramount that farmers should start telling the community of the wonderful social contribution that they make to it.”
Vermeulen said it was disheartening to hear political statements that threatened security around issues such as land ownership. However, he told young farmers not to be disheartened. “Politicians will make political statements prior to elections. This is simply part of the political process. Farmers should not let this deter them from achieving their primary goal of food production.”