There is a new generation of farmers on the agricultural fields of South Africa who are standing back for nothing and no-one. Amongst them is 25-year-old, Annalea van Niekerk.
Van Niekerk was born and bred on the family farm, Welverdiend, near Reitz in the Free State. Today she manages and runs her business, Sonador Stud, on the farm, breeding Sussex cattle.
In this week’s episode of the agricultural TV show Vir die liefde van die land (For the love of the land) hosts Ivor Price and Piet Potgieter visit Van Niekerk on the farm.
Price, co-founder of Food For Mzansi, and Potgieter, manager for developing agriculture with the VKB Group, travelled all through South Africa for the show, which celebrates Mzansi’s unsung heroes of agriculture. New episodes air every Thursday at 18:00 on VIA, DStv channel 147. Check the channel programme schedule for daily repeat broadcasts.
Van Niekerk believes that her success and understanding of the agricultural sector is owed to her father and uncles who implanted and helped shape her love for the land.
“Most of the things that I know about agriculture I learned from my dad. The mentorship from my family improves me as a farmer. When I have an idea, I take it to them and then they help me improve that idea even further,” she says.
Currently she rents two farming properties. The name of her farming enterprise, Sonador, translates to “dreamer” in Spanish.
In the episode, she tells Price of her amazing childhood, growing up on the farm. Being home-schooled by her mother, Van Niekerk recalls how her only other activity besides schoolwork was working the land alongside her father, whom she adores.
Family and farming struggles
Viewers also learn that, even working with her father, Van Niekerk’s journey towards establishing herself as a noteworthy farmer has been far from easy.
She recalls the challenges of feeling out of place during farmer gatherings at times because she was the only woman. It took time and effort to gain the respect of agriworkers who refused to listen and work with her, and the selling her livestock as a new farmer was an uphill battle.
Van Niekerk also shares why she considers her parents and uncles to be her pillars of support. Although there are many days when she feels discouraged, they motivate her to hold on.
Her father, Danie van Niekerk, who is also her mentor, features in the episode and shares what it is like working alongside his daughter.
“Never in my dreams did I ever think that my daughter would want to farm, but when she was still a baby, she always drove with me in the bakkie. I trust my daughter completely in what she does, because she knows what she wants to achieve and do,” he says.
VKB commits to investing in young farmers
The face of agriculture is changing and VKB knows this very well. Already, they have started making investments in the future of young farmers like Van Niekerk.
Dan Kriek, chairman of the social and ethics committee at VKB, explains later in the show why it is essential that progress is made around land reform. He also stresses the necessity of ensuring that the sector becomes more inclusive and new farmers are attracted.
“This is the only way we will ensure the sustainability of the sector. In the last ten years we have seen change where there is a much greater commitment and energy from everyone in the sector to make land reform work.
“As VKB, we put a lot of energy into bringing together commercial farmers and new farmers in order to build relationships and then ultimately form partnerships in the sector; taking everyone in the country’s participation in the agricultural sector forward,” Kriek explains.
The episode featuring van Niekerk airs Thursday, 26 November at 18:00 on VIA, DStv channel 147. There are repeats of the show daily, please check the channel guide for details.