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Now I understand better

August 2014


JANNIE DE VILLIERS, uitvoerende hoofbestuurder/CEO

The Class of 2014 of the Grain Academy presented by Grain SA in collaboration with Syngenta, graduated on 20 June this year in Bloemfontein. On that Friday, the men and one woman had to present the results of the projects they were researching to a panel.

The subjects were challenging: Land reform, how to get communal lands into production and water in agriculture. All of it in English! To experience the energetic and innovative young people was truly a privilege for me.

Our dreams to create something like this were greatly surpassed. I was inspired anew with courage for the future of agriculture by listening to and observing the event. This is a very precious investment in the people of our country that in future will still deliver a lot of interest.

Each student also had to read a resolve to everyone present at the end of the evening about how they intended to apply this new knowledge. That is what I live for: To see young people take a vision and as new generation leaders accept responsibility for the future of the country! If every partnership with our input suppliers delivers such results, there would be few issues that could keep us back.

On 26 June this year approximately 16 of the Grain SA staff members, including myself, of the Pretoria office departed in a convoy to the Moedverloren Boerdery. The mission of the day was to experience first-hand the harvesting process in such a good year. Mr Neels Ferreira, along with his fertiliser advisor from Omnia, explained precision farming to the group whereafter everyone could take a ride on a self-driven tractor. Some even had the opportunity, under the watchful eye of the owner, to personally drive a tractor. Others took the opportunity to talk to the present day farm workers who operate the expensive machinery with confidence.

For some it was a first time on a commercial farm. Some have never been in a combine harvester, or have never seen where all the maize comes from. At the end of the day each had the opportunity to share their experience of the day with the others. Although each of us had a unique experience, we all went home with a far better understanding of what commercial farming is really about. The tasty pap and meat we were spoilt with was also much more appreciated. With this we learnt again that we cannot meet the future with confidence if we do not continually invest in our people.

June this year was a month with a lot of heavy guns regarding land reform. The intensity of the debate is even creating some stress in the ranks of organised agriculture. Hardened leaders in agriculture are scratching their heads; but it is now the time to keep your cool! It is not so difficult to apply leadership when matters are going reasonably well, but when the hills get steeper and mountains higher, it is time for the real leaders to step forward.

Thank you for all the encouragement we receive at the office and the assurances that you are praying for us. One of my mentors of many years ago taught me the lesson that an anxious horse makes anxious jumps. “Stay calm, Jannie Div” was his advice. This is such a time now!

We are entering a very challenging season with regard to land reform and the next four years will be decisive for our future – not only for agriculture, but also for the country. What remains a given though is that all who are negotiating (and even those not negotiating) still has to eat three times per day. That is our salvation.

Publication: August 2014

Section: Features