The secret to successful farming

We have come to the end of a year, as well as the end of a decade, that seems to have tested South African farmers unlike any other.

Incidentally, this is also my 10th year as a full-time employee at Farmer’s Weekly. As the team looked back at the past decade to compile the various reviews for 20-27 December 2019 issue, I also had the chance to reflect on some of the lessons I have learnt about agriculture since I wrote my very first article, which was about the dam levels in the Western Cape.

In many ways, the past 10 years, and everything I have learnt about agriculture, have changed my life and the way in which I look at the world around me.

When I go to the supermarket and see that the price of some vegetables has increased more than 10% since the last time I was there, I immediately start wondering whether we missed a story about a hail storm somewhere, and I start worrying about the farmers who might have been affected.

When I buy a loaf of bread or a bottle of wine, I look at it and think about the share of the final price the farmer is getting, resenting the value chain for the fact that it is fewer than five slices’ or one glass’s worth.

I start feeling concerned when there is a special on eggs. Of course, I buy them (I still love a good deal), but I feel bad for the farmers who end up paying the price for our bargains.

I consume consciously and with appreciation. When food spoils in my home, I throw it away with a heavy heart, not just because of the money wasted, but because of the water, energy and effort that I have allowed to go to waste by not using that product.

I sit down to a meal thankful for the hands of farmworkers and farmers, who worked hard, in often uncomfortable conditions, to produce the food.

I have developed a reverence for earthworms and bees, to the point where I feel like crying when I see a drowned bee in a  swimming pool.

But the lessons I have learnt from farmers go beyond the practical and intellectual. I have learnt the value of patience, and the importance of improving what I can, so that I will leave the little part of Earth that I inhabited in a better state than I found it in.

Farmers have shown me how important it is to never stop learning and to not be afraid to make changes when they become necessary. They have taught me how little control I have over… well, anything… other than my own actions.

They have shown me that it is possible to keep your heart light, even when the circumstances around you grow heavy.

Finally, I have learnt that the secret to being a good farmer is really not a secret at all, but simply this: do the best you can, with what you have, and don’t give up.

Thank you, to all the farmers, farmworkers and other agriculture role players, not just for the stories you have shared with Farmer’s Weekly this year, but for the lessons you have taught me over the past 10 years. Is till have much to learn.