Starting out might be a challenge for young farmers, but crop and livestock farmer Minenhle Ngubane in Ashburton KwaZulu-Natal takes each challenge as a chance to be one with his true calling.
“It’s passion and love. If you had to visit the farm, you’d find me in the field tending to the crops or in the broiler house,” he says.
Ngubane is a qualified animal scientist born and raised in Pietermaritzburg. His background in farming sparked a newfound love for farming.
“As I was growing up, I had the opportunity to work on farms at Swayimane with my father. I had the opportunity to learn about the different practices and understand parts of agriculture, especially when it comes to animal and crop production,” he explains.
“Since then, I have wanted to study agriculture and learn about the field to the best of my abilities. My purpose for becoming an animal scientist was to contribute to the field and develop sustainable practices.”
Discovering the fascinating world of animal science
Ngubane completed his high school career at Zakhe Agricultural College. This is where his newly found interest was fanned and groomed. He details how he explored and learned about different agricultural practices and was exposed to various farming techniques in both animal and crop farming.
He believes the information he gathered in agronomy, horticulture, and permaculture techniques in plant production was a good start. Under animal production, he was trained in raring small stock and cattle under an extensive farming system. And he later learned about broiler and layer production.
After matric, this go-getter was determined to pursue a career in farming and enrolled at the University of KwaZulu-Natal for a BSc in animal science.
He is currently working with Owen Smith of Smith Animal Feeds, the man who believed in him and gave him a chance to showcase his expertise in agriculture. Ngubane says through Smith’s guidance, he has grown in decision-making for business purposes.
‘Farming aids my mental cleansing’
“Although working in the agriculture sector might be stressful, I have developed a few coping mechanisms that keep me in check and motivated. I start by ensuring that I take regular breaks throughout the day to obtain some fresh air,” he says.
“This aids in my mental cleansing and helps me refocus on the current work. Knowing where I’m heading as well as my family also keeps me motivated. Amabovu is my main motivation and always has been. No matter what we may encounter now or in the future, my family is my main motivation.”
Coming into farming was something Ngubane has always wanted, which encouraged him to continue tirelessly with his studies and obtain enough experience. However, just when he had reached the beginning of his goal, challenges plagued him.
Challenges of a startup
With his three-hectare farm in Ashburton, an urban area where he was doing fairly well on a small-scale level, finances kept him from expanding.
Surrounding factories and industries are the source of the soil contamination he deals with regularly, thus decreasing the amount of clean soil to cultivate on. Adding to this struggle, water shortages have affected the growth of his crops.
“I struggle with a lack of space since I must compete for land with other businesses and homes. Furthermore, dealing with unpredictable weather and ensuring that my crops are protected from harsh weather conditions are additional challenges I encounter,” he says.
But Ngubane continues regardless of the challenges, and he tells Food For Mzansi that the love he has for what he does keeps him going. He says nothing beats the feeling he gets inside when he walks around to tend his animals, seeing their growth and producing food with his own hands.
“I’m a person who values outcomes. I adore having a clear goal and enough time to develop a fantastic plan for achieving it. My greatest accomplishment as a farmer thus far is the fact that I am currently supplying fresh produce to one of the best retailers in South Africa and two of the best in Pietermaritzburg. For many years to come, I would like to see my farm expand and prosper. I want to continue working with nature and not against it.”
The youth can enjoy farming
The dream is still fresh, and the journey is just a few strides away. For Ngubane challenges are a given, but nothing is shaking this determined youngster. In fact, he believes fellow youth like him could find inner peace. And those who might be interested in walking the greener pastures need just one thing: resilience.
“Everyone should know that as a farmer, I think several crucial abilities are necessary for success in this career. Understanding agricultural and farming techniques comes first. Patience and perseverance are two of the most important attributes you can have, as farming is not a career in which one can just be successful overnight.
“Keep pushing, keep grinding. Always remember that the time and passion you put in will equate to the results you yield in this career.”
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