JANNIE DE VILLIERS, uitvoerende hoofbestuurder/CEO
Once again it was wet, cold and windy at this year’s Mega Week. The wheat, barley and canola fields, after another good year in the Western Cape, look beautiful. Surprisingly enough the location differential was not discussed this year, but land issues were at the order of the day.
For me the highlight was my discussion with nine of Grain SA’s mentors. Men, who of their own volition and funding, assist their fellow producers and workers to make a huge difference in the lives of those they help. They look like ordinary, run-of-the-mill producers, but their hearts are different. They excitedly related to me how each of them designed a plan to help their colleagues. Some even acted as surety because financing is not available. Nobody else wants to help…It is heartbreaking.
They share the happiness. No one has any regrets about what they are doing. They would just like to have more assistance with financing and of course more land. I learn from each of our people that each has an own unique plan. This is surely the most important lesson of the day. These are men breaking new ground!
If we could all just realise that nobody can furnish you with one blueprint. No one kick-started these men to embark on their mentorship; it was out of their own will. It would be better if land reform could work this way. “On your own target, at your own time, proceed.” (à la SA Defence Force).
In all my travels and the meetings I attend, you encounter many pieces of wisdom. One of these successful mentors the other day expressed such a small piece of wisdom that has a huge impact on life: All of us know that agriculture is not for sissies. We can teach people certain skills and what to do to produce food for people and animals. BUT when the pressure mounts and the going gets difficult, it is character that pulls you through, not your skills.
It is precisely this piece of wisdom and truth that we in agriculture hold so dearly. Whether we are training young leaders at the Grain Academy, or whether we are exposing young agricultural leaders in the grain value chain to seasoned mentors during a young leaders’ laboratory or just a training session before a meeting of the Executive: Character comes first! Character cannot be downloaded from the internet. Character follows if you persist in doing the right things for the right reasons, regardless. There is a lot of character building time in being alone and taking decisions on your own that not only affect the whole of your farm, but also those who process the food and those who eat the food you produce.
There is a saying that goes that you can only smell whether it is a rose or khaki bush if you crush it on the ground with your foot. Only then does the true aroma present itself. How do you “smell” when you are under pressure? Which words flow from your mouth – rose or khaki bush? I am regularly put to the test when I sit in the land reform meetings and wave after wave of accusations roll over you unceasingly. Then remaining calm and maintaining self-control are the characteristics you require to once again move to the middle ground and stand for only the truth. It is especially here where the Lord’s grace is greatest.
Let us then remain steadfast with integrity, speaking the truth in the best interest of all. Whether we are debating land reform, negotiating prices with input suppliers or buyers, or simply teaching your child that one must comply with all the laws of the land.
Publication: November 2014