What do you do when you have the passion for farming, but little to no money to make that passion a reality? And is capital really that essential to start farming?
On a recent episode of the weekly Gather To Grow interactive discussion on Twitter, Food For Mzansi’s editor for audience and engagement, Dawn Noemdoe, and head of news, Duncan Masiwa, unpacked how new farmers can start their agri dreams on an empty pocket.
Joining them as expert panellists were:
- Daniel de Sousa, co-founder of The Farm Nearby in KwaZulu-Natal.
- Siyabulela Siyamthanda, farmer and BCom accounting graduate.
- Davidzo Chizhengeni, animal scientist and founder of KvD livestock.
Did you miss this live session? You can listen to the recording here. Meanwhile, here are some of the highlights from the lively discussion.
No land, no capital
Before any farmer can kickstart their farming journey, it is important to do market research first. With his background in branding, Daniel de Sousa says he was fortunate enough to understand the need to secure market demand for his product before producing anything.
When De Sousa started his farm, urban farming was not yet a popular concept in South Africa. This meant that he could not get loans or funding the traditional way.
This is why he encourages aspiring farmers to not look at the finances first, but to rather look at the opportunities in their space and adapt to that. The finance will come afterwards.
“It can be very tempting to want to jump headfirst into getting a loan and buying land with a few hectares, but look at what is available and at your disposal.
“You [also] need to look at where your market is. So, forget the size of the land, you need to look at the location of the land first,” advises De Sousa.
Siyabulela Siyamthanda adds that new farmers should not be afraid to start tiny. “Start small and grow. That helps a lot because you get to learn and you can make mistakes without having any big financial loses,” he says.
Never stop learning
Furthermore, Davidzo Chizhengeni explains that it is important for farmers to remember that farming is not just about the land and the crops. “There are many different departments involved in creating a successful farming business. I encourage new farmers to familiarise themselves with the different departments.”
But farmers need to remember that they are not alone, Siyamthanda points out. Although the agricultural sector is a competitive one, help is always available.
Siyamthanda says that it is important for farmers to help each other and build relationships. “For example, when one farmer doesn’t have produce, we contact each other and we help each other.”
Besides, no one will understand your struggle quite like another farmer, so it is encouraged to build community within the agricultural sector.
When to aim higher
When starting a farm, the end goal for most farmers is to eventually sell their produce. But when can a farmer start selling their produce to supermarkets?
De Sousa says, “Once you’ve established a name for your produce within its market and you’ve experienced how people give you feedback, at that point you can make a solid decision about whether you want to pursue that pathway.”
Don’t forget to join Gather To Grow live sessions, hosted @foodformzansi on Twitter every Wednesday at 18:00.
Sign up for Farmer’s Inside Track: Join our exclusive platform for new entrants into farming and agribusiness, with newsletters and podcasts.