The Corner Post
Petrus Ranko Tsotetsi (55) believes passion and planning are key in the agricultural industry. He says you must love what you are doing, have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and be committed to reaching the outcome.
FROM MECHANIC TO SUPERVISOR TO FARMER
Petrus wasn’t initially destined for agriculture. He studied motor mechanics in Bethlehem and even operated his own car repair workshop. He then became a supervisor for Metrorail in Pretoria.
In 2009 his father, Joseph, who was a grain and cattle farmer, passed away. This was truly a life-changing event for him, which compelled him to make a career change. After his father’s death he would occasionally visit the farm – which was about 350 km away – just to ensure that everything was still running smoothly.
When he noticed that equipment was being stolen, he made the big decision to leave the city life and a secure income behind, and to honour his late fathers’ legacy and start farming full-time on his father’s land. At this stage his wife, Ophelia, could not join him as she had a stable job in Pretoria and their two sons and daughter were at school there.
Once he made the decision to farm, he was committed to making a success of his new career path. As he believes that you need to collect as much information as you can about the career path you choose, he successfully completed agricultural courses in 2013 and 2014.
PASSION, FOCUS AND COMMITMENT
Petrus farms on Die Bult, his father’s 316-hectare farm in the Thabo Mofutsanyane District near Kestell in the Free State. Here he plants crops – maize, soybeans and sugar beans in a rotation system – on 206 hectares of arable land, and his livestock graze on the other 110 hectares. He is also an asparagus farmer and as it is a very labour-intensive operation, with asparagus having to be harvested daily for about six months, people in the community have benefitted as they were employed by the cooperative.
One of Petrus’s dreams is that as a fully-fledged commercial farmer he can provide more jobs in the community and influence people to acknowledge the importance of agriculture. ‘I wish the people of South Africa, especially the youth, would realise how important agriculture is and develop a love for farming. This is how the economy can grow,’ says Petrus, who has a passion for changing the youth’s viewpoint on farming.
Petrus joined Grain SA in 2013 and became part of the mentorship programme in 2016. Johan Kriel and Jacques Roux have played a big part in his development. ‘They were both good mentors who taught me how to plan before planting and how to monitor my plants as they grow. They helped me to manage and handle my finances. I can now do things on my own.’
His agricultural knowledge has increased tremendously over the past 13 years, as learning new agricultural practices and discovering advanced technology in the sector are important to him. He has benefitted from further training through attending study groups and courses such as farm management and financial management, technical advice on the calibration of planters and sprayers and other practical courses.
‘I never knew what a big difference soil preparation and applying the right fertiliser at the right time would make,’ he says.
Other agricultural practices that have contributed to an increased yield on his fields are crop rotation and planting time. ‘I used to plant the same crop on the same land at the same time. Now I do crop rotation.’
A big agricultural lesson he learned is how important it is to plant on time, but he has also realised that even if you do everything right, you cannot predict the weather. ‘Somewhere in your farming career you will experience drought and veld fires will wreak havoc, so being prepared at all times is crucial.’
Because of the input and support Petrus has received from Grain SA and others, he is committed to farming successfully. ‘If people invest their time and advice, you repay them by doing a good job.’ This is why he is a hands-on farmer who checks on his growing crops to ensure that there aren’t weeds or pests destroying his healthy crop.
KNOWLEDGE MAKES THE DIFFERENCE
He believes a lack of knowledge is one of the biggest obstacles amongst developing farmers. ‘I wish they would all participate in the programmes and courses that are offered, so that they can get more information and knowledge on how to operate their farming enterprises and grow their businesses.’
The biggest lesson he has learned in the past 13 years, is that a farmer must work hard and keep his eyes and ears open. ‘I have also learned patience, as farming is a long-term project. You have to be focused, love what you are doing and be devoted.’
Petrus is driven by his passion and dedication. ‘I became a farmer to fulfil my father’s wish, as he was a passionate farmer. Now I have developed a passion for farming as well,’ he says. Seeing the progress he has made and being able to help others through job creation motivates him to keep on going, even though there are struggles and stumbling blocks on his path.
Publication: June 2022