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A word from…Graeme Engelbrecht

February 2020

What does the future hold for you as an individual farmer?

By now the planting season is behind us, we have all sweated, cursed, pushed hard, cried and prayed to get us to where we are now. Every year is the same struggle, actually it seems to get more difficult? Climate change? New technology that is hard to understand? Accelerating costs? Definitely not accelerating prices! Our own age advancing? What does the future hold for us? 

Everyone got into farming for their own and sometimes unique reasons. The one constant is that the moment you put money into a venture, you have an expectation for a return, farming is no different.

If farming is then a business, is it the same as all other business’s? The answer is a distinct no, most business are different in their own way, but what makes farming unique is that you are using a resource of which you are only a custodian for the future and your own future depends on your treatment of this resource. As a farmer you are actually legally bound to be responsible with this resource, and this carries a cost. The financial margins in farming are such that these costs are generally only recoverable in the long term. The costs are balancing the nutrition of your soils, not depleting it, measures to ensure water penetration and avoid damaging runoff, controlling weed seed banks, planting cover crops, rehabilitating watercourses, controlling livestock, maintaining a natural balance of the fauna and flora. All these costs take years to recover but done correctly there will be a distinct financial advantage too. Farming is truly a very long-term business.

If it is such a long-term business, are we prepared for this? A frightening fact from the Subsistence to Abundance project was that the average age of the small-scale farmers participation was in their 60s! It is not only a good succession plan that is needed for our own businesses, but a succession for our industry. Who are the farmers of tomorrow? Where are they now? Are they being given the advantage of your years of experience, your knowledge? Are they being schooled to be ready to embrace new technology? Where is the youth in agriculture?

It is easy to turn to the government and commodity organisations to ask this question and to demand programmes to correct this, but it is to the advantage of each and every individual farmer to find the solution, should it then not also be our responsibility as farmers to help find the solution and to implement it?

What plans have YOU made for YOUR future?

Publication: February 2020

Section: Pula/Imvula