Inspired by her father and the love he had for farming and his family, Matome Cynthia Mokgobu has become one of the most inspiring young farmers in Limpopo. Despite all the challenges she faces, she continues to strive for success.
Mokgobu (29) was born in Gemarke village in a town called Bochum in Limpopo. It was there where she observed her father, Moloko Johannes Mokgobu, working the land and sometimes also assisting him with the daily operations of the farm.
Her father farmed with goats and cows and also owned a supermarket in the village. So Mokgobu and her siblings learned from an early age about farming and business from him.
Mokgobu recalls that she grew up in a loving family where she was supported in whatever she did.
“Everything was good growing up, my parents provided for us and also took care of the supermarket and liquor store they had. My parents were in business ever since I was born, so I knew about business from a very young age. They also used to farm during rainy seasons and during school holidays, we would go to the farm and help to weed, harvest, and chase away any domestic animals that tried to get in,” Mokgobu says.
She says her parents had a huge influence on her life and business journey, and her father used to say to her: “I’m not raising a child that will go look for a job, I raise bosses”. She took this declaration to heart and looked forward to being her own boss one day.
However, everything changed when her parents lost their businesses, making living a little bit harder for the Mokgobu family.
“Everything went from good to bad when our family businesses were boycotted in the village and for seven years, we struggled a lot as a family. Until my father went to Gauteng to look for a job,” Mokgobu recalls.
“It was very difficult for my parents to also pay for our university studies, so I got a horticulture internship in Joburg. I used some of the money to pay for my fees, [and] also got a bursary that helped.”
In high school, Mokgobu took science-related subjects and after matric, she studied for a diploma in ornamental horticulture.at the University of South Africa (Unisa).
Mokgobu’s farming journey kicked off in 2016 after she decided to follow her own path. “From my first year, I was volunteering at the South African National Botanical Gardens and got my first internship at Garden World in Honeydew in Joburg, and my last internship was at Pebbles Plant. I felt I had enough practical experience to go home and do my own thing.”
‘Farming chose me’
She now runs her own business, Mosibudi Trading Enterprise, which specialises in crop production and the farming of butternut, cabbage, spinach, mustard, and potatoes. Her products are sold at Boxer Superstores, the Bochum market, Spar Save More, the Joburg market and Polokwane fresh produce, as well as to street vendors.
“Farming chose me. I was born to be a farmer. I love farming because I find peace in it, it is my happy place and I enjoy spending my time working the land or just sitting and looking at the crops, happy and green. This gives me so much joy,” she shares.
Mokgobu currently employs three seasonal workers and a further nine to help plant potatoes as part of a small grower program that is part of Potato SA, which she started last year.
At breaking point
Disaster struck in 2019, a year that brought her to her knees and made her think about quitting farming. Her crops were damaged by domestic neighbouring animals.
“In 2019 there was a drought and every rabbit in the bush, as well as goats and cows were trying to get into the farm and eat the green crops by the fence. It was mostly rabbits.”
“They destroyed the crops to a point that there was no crop to harvest. That was a depressing year for me and I felt like quitting because I had invested so much. But I never did because there’s nothing else I want to do beside farming,” says Mokgobu.
Her motto in life is that hard work beats talent, she adds. “But when you have both like me is a bonus,” says a proud Mokgobu. “Hard work pays, even if it will take you 10 years. If you don’t stop working hard, you will definitely reach your goal.”
Like any other business, challenges always find their way in, and for Mokgobu, it is a lack of implements and proper infrastructure.
“Without implements, the job becomes very hard to do and very difficult. Without proper infrastructure, we can’t reach other markets like Freshmarket and Woolworths because we don’t have a packhouse nor a food and safety certificate, so our compliance does not meet the requirements,” she explains.
But she vows to not let it hold her back. With her experience in a successful farming venture, Mokgobu advises other young people to follow their dreams.
“Each and every one of us was born with different purposes in life. So, if we can find our purpose in life, we will succeed. Work hard, focus and be consistent, and also do things that are in line with what you want to do and chase things that add value to your lives,” says Mokgobu.
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