Growing up in Port Nolloth in the Namaqualand, amongst the salt of the earth, is quite possibly his fondest memory, says Breyton Milford, describing the “genuine, kind people” in the small, domestic seaport he hails from.
He believes he was born to farm and his love for farming forms part of his genetics. It was not his first choice, however, and due to financial difficulties he could not afford to attend the agricultural school of his choice.
Milford ended up matriculating from the Augsburg Landbou Gimnasium agricultural school in Clanwilliam in the Olifants River Valley of the Western Cape. “This was meant to be. Augsburg was exactly what I needed in my life, at that stage and for my future.”
He was also the first person of colour on the student body and elected deputy head boy at the school. “When I started in grade 8, we were only about 15 Coloured kids in the school. At first it was very difficult. We have different ways and cultures and at times being such a small minority was very difficult. I told myself I want to make or be the difference. When I was elected on the student body I knew that in some or other way, I made an impact or a difference to the learners of the school who elected me,” says Milford.
Milford then furthered his studies at the Grootfontein College of Agriculture where he was presented with the John Deere Award for Best Agricultural Student of the Year. This was also a first for the Coloured community.
Today he has travelled to more than 10 countries across the globe and says every country is unique.
He says the outlook by South Africans can at times be very negative, but if you visit a country like Papua New Guinea in the South Pacific, and you look at all the challenges they face, then we are in a very good position.
Amongst the things that stood out for him on his many trips abroad is Singapore’s efficiency, but that they have to import 95% of their food. In Paris, France he remembers the whole Champs Elysées, probably the most famous avenue in Paris, dressed up with huge flags advertising their agricultural expo, proudly embracing agriculture.
Milford has also been honoured for his contribution to the youth in the agricultural sector.
“Youth is the future. If we do not educate, empower and inform the youth about the opportunities we have in agriculture, we will be heading for a crisis.”
In 2004 he was awarded Best Speaker at the annual Agri Western Cape Conference. He addressed the shortage of agricultural teachers in the province.
Milford says, however, a lot has not changed. “There is still a challenge. Agricultural education is a challenge.”
The National Agricultural Youth Association, of whom Milford is the chairperson, aims to encourage youth to get involved in agriculture through a youth show competition. He also farms part-time and is the youngest senior manager at Agri-Expo, a professional promotion and marketing organization for the agricultural sector.
“I enjoy my job a little more, but I do enjoy the break-away from the corporate life to the farm. I always try to see the positive things in life, always being realistic. Whether it’s black and white, farmers and the public, young and old I believe that there is always hope and that by embracing others, you can make them and yourself stronger.”