Van der Poll’s 20-year-old dream of being a farmer in his own right become a reality when he became a beneficiary of land reform. He acquired land to farm in Gouda, a settlement in the Cape Winelands District Municipality, in 2013.
The Western Cape Department of Rural Development and Land Reform bought Klipdrift, a 450-hectare farm between Riebeek-Kasteel and Gouda. The farm lay fallow for three years before van der Poll managed to secure a five-year lease on the property.
Attaining this dream has been a surreal experience, says the 47-year-old livestock and grain farmer. “I’m still excited about it and we still have big plans.”
Van der Poll says he first realized his love for farming in 1993, after completing his agricultural diploma at the Kromme Rhee Provincial Training Institute in Stellenbosch.
The qualified agriculturalist then started his journey as a farm manager on a citrus farm in Citrusdal, at the base of the Cederberg mountains about 160 km north of Cape Town. “I started as an assistant manager and from there on I had big dreams.”
He spent 20 years soaking up as much insight and knowledge as he could in his managerial post. While serving as assistant manager he used the opportunity to actively prepare for the day he got his own farm. “I managed the farm like it was my own farm,” he says. “I already decided in 1993 I want to have my own farm and that’s why it was easy for me to adapt as a farm worker.”
“From the beginning I was very positive about the fact that I will have my own farm. That was my motivation all these years,” he continues. The livestock and grain farmer says his passion for farming was cultivated from a very young age by his late father, Japie van der Poll.
Van der Poll senior was also a livestock farmer in Molsvlei. His father farmed with goats in the platteland town in the West Coast area of the Western Cape province. “He was a farmer, that’s where the love of farming started. From there it just started growing and growing.”
A farm boy at heart, Van der Poll adds that his passion was further grounded by always sticking to his roots.
“I never really spent time in the big cities, I was raised on farms most of the time and that’s where my heart is.”
The 450-hectare land that Van der Poll leases, houses 700 Dohne Merino ewes, 30 Red Angus cattle, and about 40 Boer goats. Realising that he could not make money off cattle alone, Van der Poll ventured into grain farming in 2017. The farm produces tons of grains and legumes, ranging from wheat, lucerne, lupin, maize and oats.
“Our main source of income is from the wheat. We also plant maize on the (irrigation) pivot and then we do lucerne. The other land we use for our animal feeds like oats and the lupines.”
Despite flourishing today, van der Poll explains that financial challenges still loom over his business. He feels that, as a government beneficiary, he does not have the same level of esteem as self-funded farmers. “The business is not full of cash crops like people make it seem. We don’t receive our money immediately, we have to wait.”
“Because we don’t have collateral, we can’t get loans and stuff from the banks, so we make use of government grants and that is very difficult as an entrepreneur, even more so as a farmer.”
Drought is also an ever-prevalent factor that has slowed his production over the last six-years. “We started in 2013, but it was too late to produce anything. In 2014 we started with planting seeds and the animals and 2015 we started with the wheat, but that was a high drought year. 2016 was fine but we did not have money, so we used government grants and that was late, so we planted late and it was a good harvest. 2017 was a drought again, but then 2018 came and it was the best year we had ever experienced, we managed to grow 3.1 tons of wheat.”
Despite facing countless challenges, van der Poll advises youth who are looking to break into the industry to “set your goals, write them down and be positive.”
He adds that it did not matter what difficulties up-and-coming farmers are plagued by, they must weather the storm if they want to succeed in the business.
“Sometimes you will have difficulties, but you will have to look at the positive side of the business. Be passionate about your business. For me that’s the only thing. We are passionate about our business and we love our business and we know we will succeed.”
Grain SA is a Food For Mzansi partner. Our work is supported by the contributions of our partners, who have no right of control over editorial content. Read more on our Partners page. This video was provided to Food For Mzansi courtesy of Grain SA.