It’s been almost two years since Free State farmer Mimie Jacobs had to endure a brutal attack on her farm during which perpetrators threatened to rape and kill her.
It is a day that still torments her memory from time to time. However, the commercial lucerne farmer says after the trauma and the emotional toll it took, she has found healing. She finds reason to celebrate life every day.
“Healing is a process and I take it one day at a time. Right now, I am working hard on building the capacity of my business and I want to buy this land from government,” Jacobs says.
Jacobs is an award-wining farmer. On 165 hectares in Soutpan, in one of the most open and arid parts of the Free State, she cultivates lucerne, teff and pecan nuts.
It’s been almost ten years since Jacobs first strapped on her farming boots to cultivate her land. After working for 20 years in the banking industry in Johannesburg, life had other plans for her when her father, Piet Jacobs – an avid farmer – passed away in 2004.
Wanting to make him proud, Jacobs returned to her agricultural roots and paved her own way. Little did she know that she would encounter one of her toughest trials, not only as a farmer but also as a woman, while growing food for the nation.
Remembering an ordeal
On 16 February 2020, the day of her brutal attack, Jacobs’ farmhouse floor was covered in blood after she was brutally attacked by three armed men who stormed into her home. They threatened to rape and kill her.
Remembering the dreadful day, Jacobs’ jaws clench as she swipes through pictures of the gruesome scene on her phone.
During the ordeal Jacobs was kicked and stabbed in the head, with part of the knife breaking off and lodging in her skull. She remembers her attackers tying her up with an electric cable and forcing her to make an e-wallet payment.
“I survived a brutal attack, so I believe there must be purpose for me.”
“I still remember every detail. It was raining and everything happened so fast. That ordeal changed me. It actually took me a while to trust men again. I remember escaping and running to my neighbour through the fields because I didn’t want to take the main road. I was scared the attackers might find me.”
Her neighbour called an ambulance, and around midnight she was rushed to Pelonomi Hospital in Bloemfontein.
“My life is nothing but a miracle and favour from God, even when I look at the attack on my life. I survived a brutal attack, so I believe there must be purpose for me.”
Almost two years after the crime, Jacobs says she is looking onwards and upwards.
“I dealt with forgiveness in the first week after the attack, it’s what God expects from all of us. I celebrate life every morning when I wake up, and don’t take for granted the people that I love,” she states.
The scary road to success
Every day, this award-winning producer regains control of her life and works hard to take her business to new heights.
Initially in 2009, Jacobs started farming with grain, corn, beans, wheat and barley with funding she got from the department of rural development, which enabled her to lease the land from government. It is a 30-year lease agreement and Jacobs had the first option to buy the land.
These days she is expanding her offering with pecan nuts and teff, a type of grass that is cultivated for its edible seeds and made into flour.
However, lucerne is Jacobs’ biggest source of income. She currently grows this on nine hectares and exports much of it to Lesotho. She has plans to expand production on a further 25 hectares.
Jacobs says she is still learning the ropes of the pecan nuts planted on eight hectares. Initially she wanted to do 30 hectares, but she does not have enough available land.
Farming with pecan nuts, Jacobs says, “is a scary road, you can’t afford to make a mistake. That’s why I make sure that I attend every training session to learn as much as possible”.
The South African Pecan Nut Producers Association (SAPPA), of which Jacobs is a member, pays for her training sessions.
“So, you see, even though it’s challenging I’m never alone and that’s the great thing. Even at the start of my agricultural journey I’ve always been supported,” Jacobs says.
She now looks forward to incorporating agritourism into her farming enterprise and has already started hosting events on her farm.
Lessons in business
Jacobs says she surrounds herself with only the best and depends on her mentors as if they are oxygen.
Mentorship is vital to any farmer, she believes. However, she warns that farmers should protect themselves from being exploited. “There are many farmers that are being exploited, women especially. People see us as a weak species and underestimate us.”
She also warns farmers to be very careful when choosing partners. “I’ve learned as black farmers we must be cautious about who we go into partnership with,” Jacobs warns.
In 2016, her then-partner stole money and caused extensive crop damage while she was away in China on business. “I learned a valuable lesson that year. Do your homework and have an airtight contract. The bottom line is that you should always protect yourself.”