Passion makes dreams a reality
There is a Disney quote which says, 'The only thing predictable about life is its unpredictability'. Farmers know this all too well as in agriculture nature often throws them a curveball with unexpected weather conditions like drought and high temperatures or floods when drier conditions are required.
In 2013 Maurice Boki proved that age should never be considered a barrier to successful farming when at the age of 72, he became the oldest winner of the Grain SA/Absa Developing Grain Producer of the Year award. He also did not let his age get in the way of his dreams of what he hoped to achieve in the future – expanding the hectares he planted and increasing his yield, enlarging the breeding herd and converting to no-till practises and later even installing centre-pivot irrigation.
If Maurice could write his autobiography all these dreams would be realised and he would continue farming until a ripe old age, but as a quote by Abraham Joshua Heschel, a leading Jewish theologian, states: 'The course of life is unpredictable...no one can write his autobiography in advance'. Sadly Maurice has been diagnosed with leukaemia and at the time of going to press was undergoing intensive treatment, but remains positive and dreams of being back on his farm.
It has been said that everyone can farm, but not everyone is a farmer. A farmer needs certain character traits like perseverance and a will to succeed. Looking at the life of Maurice Boki it is clear that he is a farmer in heart and soul and possesses these necessary traits:
- Passion: He calls himself 'a man of the earth' and realised from a very early age that farming was his future. Maurice started farming on his own, with no knowledge or experience, just a ton of passion – the one thing which provided him with the inspiration and motivation he needed to become a successful farmer.
- Dedication: There are no half measures with Maurice, when he does something he either does it properly or not at all. His mentor, Ian Househam, describes him as 'a dedicated and passionate farmer who always gives 100% of himself in everything he does'.
- Hard work: Any farmer will tell you that farming involves hard work and it has to become a way of life. To Maurice hard work, commitment and perseverance comes naturally. It is the driving force behind his success.
- Risk-taking: After obtaining his matric certificate, Maurice moved to Johannesburg and worked at the Germiston Municipality for three years after which he joined Twins Pharmaceuticals (Adcock Ingrams) for twelve years. In 1977 he purchased a general dealership in Matatiele which still exists. He is however someone who follows his intuition and dreams regardless of the challenges ahead or any risks involved. In 1995 he decided to make his biggest dream a reality when he bought Horncroft farm in the Eastern Cape, with the assistance of Land Bank. He has been residing on this 1 178 hectare farm, situated between Cedarville and Taylorville, ever since. Here his main enterprises are maize and beef – 135 hectares of yellow maize, a commercial beef herd of 200 breeding Bonsmara/ Brahman-type cows and 40 heifers, and a flock of about 70 commercial Dohne Merinos.
- Patience: To cope with various situations on a farm from growing crops to changing weather conditions patience is one of the most important character traits farmers need. Although he knows the importance of patience he says: 'My weakness is being too hasty and wanting to achieve a lot very quickly. I want everything done yesterday.' His career as a farmer however proves the opposite, because with very little farming knowledge and finances he limited his maize crop for the first few years and waited for the right time to expand.
- Optimism: Famers have to maintain a positive outlook to get through the difficult times of drought, problems with equipment and sick livestock. Maurice sees the good and the positive in every situation, whether on the farm or in his personal life. 'To survive during difficult times, one has to believe that next year will be better,' he mentioned in an interview. Even in hospital he says, 'I hope to get better, because God is there for everyone.'
- Knowledge: No book can teach one what is really necessary to become a successful farmer. One has to learn from those with more experience and knowledge. Through the years Maurice attended numerous courses on crop and beef production, as well as courses on farm record-keeping and business management. He also made sure he paid attention to advice his mentor and more experienced neighbours shared.
- Support: His wife Kholiswa has always been a pillar of strength in all his endeavours and even though none of his four children have shown an interest in taking over the farming operations one day, they fully support their father. To Maurice good relationships with neighbouring farmers have been important and while he has not been well enough to take care of business a neighbour has stepped in to lend a hand.
Maurice shares the following advice to other emerging/beginner farmers:
- Farming requires a huge amount of dedication, patience and effort to achieve success. It is not a way to become rich overnight.
- Start small and work towards ending big.
- You can never have enough knowledge.
- Always remember the main objective of farming is to feed the nation.
Although we do not know what the end of Maurice Boki's biography will be, it is clear that he is a farmer in heart and soul, a man of the earth whose main objective is to feed the nation.
The editorial team of Pula Imvula, wish him well, our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.
This month's edition of The Corner Post was written by Louise Kunz, Pula Imvula contributor.
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Publication: June 2016