In today’s edition of AgriSETA Learner Connect we chat to the 27-year-old Lerato Botha. She is a fiery farmer and the CEO of Farmerlee Farms in Tarlton, Gauteng. She is dynamic and has a super power that gives her wings in the sector. She’s also an agronomist.
Wait! A what? It’s a crazy tongue twister, but an agronomist helps select the correct nutrients for crops to grow. They also spend a lot of time experimenting on plants to improve their strength and ways to raise the harvest yield.
Studying agronomy enabled Botha to discover new ways of operating their family agribusiness. “Practically, I was able to marry my experiences,” she says. Becoming an agronomist is another one of the many awesome career opportunities in agriculture highlighted in the exciting AgriSETA Learner Connect campaign.
Food For Mzansi, in partnership with 19 radio stations, will every day explore the diverse career options in the agricultural sector. AgriSETA Learner Connect is also free on your favourite podcast channels, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.
Learners can access information and gain first-hand knowledge on various opportunities in agriculture right from the horse’s mouth. We chat to young movers and shakers already working in scarce skills and critically important jobs for South Africa’s future.
Ok, now it’s over to Lerato Botha for today’s AgriSETA Learner Connect.
1Could you sum up your job for us? My job requires me to oversee the daily operations of our family farm. I need to make sure that everything runs smoothly and that our clients receive their orders on time. Agronomy is the science of the successful growing of certain land crops, whether it is under dry land conditions or irrigation. Crops can include maize, grain, sorghum, sunflowers, cotton, sugar cane or fruit, among others.
2So, what does the day-to-day of your job entail? Every morning, I walk the field to scout my crops to make sure everything is in order. I do this to see if any insects need to be sprayed. I then facilitate the picking of the daily orders. I am also in charge of the planting and growing programmes of our crops. I have to ensure the correct fertiliser is added at the correct time of planting.
What qualification do you need for this career? You do not need a qualification to become a farmer. But if you want to become more technical and advanced in what you are doing, then you can get an agricultural qualification from any university or TVET college.
4What are the character traits you need to be great at your job? You must have an interest in agriculture – soil and plants in particular. This career is also for those who enjoy nature and working outdoors, has a scientific interest and a good aptitude for biology. You will need the ability to communicate ideas clearly, both in speech and in writing. Good interpersonal skills, the ability to adjust well to change as well as patience and perseverance are important.
5What subjects do I need to become an agronomist? A National Senior Certificate meeting the requirements for a degree-course at university is required. Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements. Compulsory subjects include mathematics, physical science and recommended subjects are life sciences, geography and agricultural sciences.
6What do you love about agriculture as a space to work in? Ever since I was a child, I always worked on the farm, doing small repairs to our tractors and equipment. I love how all farmers are working towards a common goal. That is to produce food and to feed the world. Most people in the agriculture sector love to share knowledge and info.
7Don’t be modest, tell us about your proudest career moments? I worked with a well-known juice company to grow a vegetable for the juice. This juice was a new concept that they were trying, and I am proud to have been a part of that. It seems to be doing well.
8What do you do when you’re not at work? I like going out to restaurants and farmers’ markets. I hike as well. I find this to be a good way to clear my head.
9Any advice for young people who are inspired by your career story here on AgriSETA Learner Connect? If farming is your passion, then go for it. It takes time to become a successful farmer, so if you want to be rich quickly, then this is not the career for you. You are young, so the chances of you becoming successful are great. Take your time. Farming is not a race. There is enough space for each and every one of you in the industry.
10Where can I study to become an agronomist? The minimum requirement is a four-year BSc (Agric) degree with agronomy or plant production as a major subject. Other subjects that may be taken are plant physiology, soil science, plant diseases and meteorology. Most universities in South Africa offer agronomy qualifications, including Free State University, University of Pretoria, Fort Hare, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Stellenbosch University and North-West University.
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