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Grain SA interviews...William Matasane

September 2015

William Matasane

After humble beginnings as a waiter, chef and later the manager of the restaurant at the Allemanskraal Dam, Holiday Resort in the Free State, William Matasane became a farmer in the Senekal district. He purchased the farm Verblyden with a grant from the DRDLR and a loan from the Land Bank. The farm is 253 ha of which 135 ha is medium potential arable soil.

Where and on how many hectares are you farming? What do you farm with?

I have since purchased two more farms with loans from the Land Bank. Leeukuil is 257 ha of which 100 ha is arable. Keerfontein is 460 ha of which 172 ha is arable. I also lease 226 ha of good arable soil in the Ventersburg district. In total I farm on 1 196 ha of which 733 ha is arable land and 463 ha is grazing.

I plants maize, sunflower and soybeans and I also have beef cattle and sheep.

What motivates/inspires you?

I was so stupid when I started farming. Then I became involved with Grain SA. I realised that without a solid support base from people I can trust, I will never make it. In 2010 I was voted the Grain SA Emerging Farmer of the Year winner. I was so humbled by this. Then I realised that I have to be a role-model for other new farmers now. This has made me work harder and smarter so that I can inspire other farmers and also make my family proud of their father.

Describe your strengths and weaknesses

I have good people skills. I have good relationships with my neighbours and with role-players in the agricultural industry. I hate debt and will not have it in my business. I have loyal workers who will work long hours to get the job done. I have a fantastic wife and children whom I love dearly. I get angry with dishonest, hidden agenda people. When I am angry I speak my mind.

What was your crop yield when you started farming? What are your respective yields now?

My first sunflower crop was 0,2 t/ha, my first wheat crop I did not even harvest. My first maize crop was 1,2 t/ha. I am now harvesting 1,5 t/ha - 2,5 t/ha on sunflower and up to 5 t/ha on maize. I do not plant wheat anymore, with wheat in Senekal you will see your behind very quickly. Last year I produced nearly 2 000 tons of grain for the season. I am a member of 1 500 Ton Club of Grain SA.

What do you think was the main contributor to your progress and success?

Look and farm. Ask questions. Go to your commercial neighbour and learn from him. Then do the correct thing at the correct time. Attend training and Farmers Days and use the knowledge you get there. Be a farmer and live on the farm. Your footmarks have to be in the soil and the dust in your face. Get your hands dirty. Set the pace and the example on the farm.

What training have you received to date and what training would you still like to do?

I have done quite a lot of training with the Grain SA Farmer Development Programme. Courses in maize and sunflower production, resource planning and farm management, I have sent my workers on tractor and implement maintenance and workshop skills courses. I attend Study Group Meetings and Farmers Days and have received a lot of on-farm visits from Grain SA field personal. They have brought the knowledge to my farm and this has made me into a good farmer.

I would like to learn more about Safex and grain trading because I would like to have more control over the selling and marketing of my crop. I would also like to start a small feed-lot on my farm.

Where do you see yourself in five years? What would you like to achieve?

In five years I want to be financially secure. I want to be able to finance myself and not make use of production loans to put a crop in the soil. I would like my three farms to be developed and to produce food at the optimum level. In five years my son will be leaving school and I want to be sure that there is a place for him to become a part of our farming enterprise. I would also like to buy more land where I can expand my beef cattle herd. I do good business speculating with sheep and would like to expand my market share there. I would like to grow my business into a fine example of how food production in South Africa by a new farmer should and can be done.

What advice do you have for young aspiring farmers?

If you become a farmer because the state buys land for people – stay out of it. Farming is not for sissies. It is not a get rich quick scheme. It is a calling and it takes hard work, long hours, perseverance and a long time before you will start to have a little money.

You have to get training on financial management, risk management, new technology and much more. Decide what your goal is and go in that direction – cash crops, vegetables, cattle or whatever.

Be passionate, loyal and caring towards the soil, your livestock and the people that work for you. Learn to take pride and pleasure from a job well done, a good crop harvested or fat cattle. Take the knocks with dignity and be humble because you are working with Gods creation.

Article submitted by Johan Kriel, Development Co-ordinator of the Grain SA Farmer Development Programme.
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Publication: September 2015

Section: Pula/Imvula