With receding Government support, a farm that WAS running at a loss, and buildings and equipment requiring vast funding to maintain, the Weston Old Boys’ Association have stepped in to save the school and farm from certain doom. With the help of many contributors they have turned the farm from a huge loss into a profitable, self-supporting enterprise.
The first step was to place adverts in Farmer’s Weekly and Landbou Weekblad asking for help from any interested parties. The response was enormous. Butch Pike, chairperson of the Old Boys’ Association, said, “The goodwill out there is incredible. All the people are very supportive in helping with their efforts. It is amazing how many people have come to the party. Ask and you shall receive, really works.” In February 2006 Paul Tait, principal executive officer of Weston Agricultural College, called a crisis meeting for all interested parties to make suggestions as to how to solve the financial dilemmas of the school and the farm.
Following the meeting Dennis Ogram and Ross Malcolm (both Old Boys) did a total audit on the farm and school and produced a five-year business plan for Weston. The crux of the plan was to get support from the Old Boys, farmers, pupils and parents to buy into Weston. The help which they have received includes the following: 40ha centre pivot – R290 000, new spray race and handling facilities – R50 000, 43 Holstein cows leased to the Weston Farm by the Association and 42 beef heifers donated by farmers and Old Boys. Chicken cages were purchased by Old Boy funds and lay hens were donated by Inverness Reares, while Nutrex donated all the food for the layers and Keystone donates day-old broilers on an ongoing basis. The management team responsible for the new lease on life is: Paul Tait, principal executive officer; Joe Sadouski, head of school; Rene Venter, financial manger; and Warren Loader, farm manager.
The driving force behind the Old Boys’ initiatives are Butch Pike, chairperson of the Old Boys’ association, John Lowe, vice-chairperson, and Derek Dickson, treasurer. There are 193 boys at Weston, half of whom are farmers’ sons. There are about 2 000 Old Boys in South Africa. Of the 12 members of the board of governors, seven are Old Boys.
An 80ha timber permit has been granted to Weston which will be financed, coordinated and run by Sappi. In the process the boys will be trained in forestry. A new dairy parlour is in the pipeline because the old parlour is outdated and can no longer handle the number of cows. The Old Boys’ Association is most grateful to all who have helped in turning Weston around and returning it to its former glory. All other help with farming equipment, animals or anything that is necessary for farming will be greatly appreciated. – Wayne Southwood Contact Paul Tait at Weston on (033) 263 1328 or 083 799 7806.