Perched among the wheat farms and fruit orchards of a small town called Piketberg in the Western Cape lies the grain and cattle farm Genadeshoop. This family farm is managed by 29-year-old Whernit Dirks, who went from farm worker to farm boss.
Ivor Price, co-founder of Food For Mzansi and presenter of the agricultural TV show Vir die liefde van die land (For the love of the land) recently visited the farm to find out more about the young farmer’s journey.
Viewers can catch Price’s visit in episode 5 of the show. The episode airs for the first time at 18:00 this Thursday (5 November) on VIA, DStv channel 147.
Dirks has been rearing sheep and planting grain since 2012. In the episode viewers learn why his transition to farmer was both difficult and stressful. He also shares how becoming a father at the age of 15 changed his perspective of life.
While sipping on a hot cup of rooibos tea, he tells Price the story of his difficult childhood. It is a time in the Dirks’ life he will never forget. In fact, it is the farmer’s early childhood experiences that nudged him towards pursuing the life of a farmer.
Raised in a family of farm workers, young Dirks dared to challenge the status quo and ended up becoming the first in his line to actually become a farmer.
“Because I grew up on the farm, I developed a love for agriculture at a very young age. I always believed that I would farm. No matter on what scale, but I believed I would farm,” he says.
Today, he is doing just that and setting a new path for his family and their future generations.
Dirks farms along with his father, grandfather and uncle. In the episode he shares what it is like working with his family and how he sometimes is forced to be firm with them, despite them being his elders, for stepping out of line.
Nonetheless, his father, Gelant Toontjies, beams with pride as he talks about his son’s achievements and accomplishments.
Viewers can look forward to hearing Dirks share his definition of success, why it has nothing to do with material objects and how the pandemic and resulting regulations impacted their farming enterprise.
Mutually beneficial farming relationship
Also featured in the episode, is farming neighbour and friend Gerhard Vermeulen, who shares how their farming relationship is mutually beneficial.
“When I met Dirks, I immediately saw potential. My knowledge with grain is not that good, so he helps me with that, and I assist him with sheep farming. We enjoy working together,” Vermeulen says.
Wilco van Heerden, harvest insurance specialist at the VKB Group then talks about the group’s farming insurance offering.
“There are major requirements that the insurance company has in terms of minimum hectares, production history and soil analyses,” he says.
“We advise the farmer to ensure that they have the necessary documents in place that will enable them to qualify for insurance.”
On his future business plans, Dirks says he plans to be one of the most successful sheep farmers in his region. For him it is not about numbers, but he wants to establish a sustainable business and leave a solid legacy behind for his children.
The episode featuring Dirks airs Thursday, 15 October at 18:00 on VIA, DStv channel 147, with further repeats on Fridays at 00:00 and 06:00 and Sundays at 20:00.