If, fourteen years ago while studying for my journalism diploma, I’d been asked what my thoughts on agriculture were, my answer would have been different to the one I would give today. You see, my childhood memories as far as agriculture is concerned have never been pleasant. My family, like many others in my village, depended on agriculture for survival.
Almost all the food we consumed was self-produced. This was hard work, or so I thought.
Growing up, my summer weekends were not for household chores or playtime – half of the day was dedicated to the fields. A little mischief at school would result in being the gardener; I can never forget that steel watering can! More responsibility came with my teen years. Before going to school every morning, we would milk the cattle, prepare to leave, and then go back to the kraal to let them out.
Because the grazing area was in the direction of the school, we would herd the animals there.
At some point, our agriculture teacher, Mr Boikanyo, decided that we were to start a garden. The irony was, while in primary school, even though we had a huge garden, agriculture was not a subject. At secondary level, the process was reversed – we had agriculture as a subject, but no garden. Mr Boikanyo nonetheless decided that we had to establish it. For fencing, all his students had to collect and bring a log once a week. For fertilising, we each had to bring a plastic shopping bag full of kraal manure – all this over a few weeks.
Can you imagine how those weeks went? You would wake up to milk the cows, walk them to the fields with a log in the one hand, a plastic bag full of manure in the other, and a bag full of books on your back! This was, for many years, the memory I had of agriculture – at least until a few years ago.
Not only did I make peace with this memory while working at Farmer’s Weekly, but I also learned to appreciate agriculture and the people involved, especially the farmers. I met remarkable individuals whose experiences made mine resemble a walk in the park. For the past seven years, I met different farmers, each with their own story to tell. Some of them may not have been the best farmers in the world, but their stories inspired me.
In fact, it is in those who did not win competitions, or have thousands of hectares to farm on, that I found inspiration. Because of them, I was encouraged to try farming. This, however, did not work out as planned. The one lesson I learned from my dismal, failed attempt was that farming is not child’s play!
Taking a bow
I would like to extend a big salute to all those who wake up every day to brave all the challenges and still continue to feed the country. This has been a long and challenging, but wonderful journey. Putting my pen down was a hard decision to make. I would like to thank every one of you, including my wonderful colleagues, for the best seven years of my life. You made this a special journey and I wish you all the best. Hopefully, we will cross paths again one day!