In a new Farmer Mentor podcast episode on Farmer’s Inside Track, David Mthombeni, the founder of Gegana Farming unpacks his journey to success and shares valuable advice for any farmer willing to listen. His business has evolved into a large-scale operation encompassing broilers, cattle, small stock, and grains across three commercial farms in Mpumalanga.
David Mthombeni is a man of resilience and determination. Born far from the rural serenity of a farm, his roots drew him back to the ancestral soil where his grandfather had tilled the land. Despite not inheriting anything but a legacy of hard work, Mthombeni, with his father, Daniel, by his side, forged Gegana Farming into the mega farming business it is today.
As the founder of Gegana Farming, Mthombeni oversees a diversified agricultural operation encompassing broilers, cattle, small stock, and grains across three expansive farms. The farms, totalling 2 162 hectares in Greylingstad, Standerton and Evander, are all situated in Mpumalanga.
Soya and maize formed the backbone of their crops, with occasional forays into sorghum when the market signals its favour. Managing this extensive mixed farming operation posed its challenges, but Mthombeni faces them head-on, driven by a vision that goes beyond the boundaries of his farms.
“Livestock is a quick cash [option] to sustain your operation, but you have to do it wisely and take it as an investment. One mistake that farmers make is to just plant one crop seasonally. You are damaging your soil. You need to do crop rotation,” Mthombeni shares his insights on maintaining a sustainable and productive farming operation.
Where it all began
The journey started when they acquired their first farm, a modest 448 hectares purchased through a combination of resources, both personal and from the Mpumalanga Agricultural Development Cooperation. Believe it or not, they only started with 18 cows. However, this was not enough to keep the farm running, a plan was needed to source additional income.
They leased the arable land to neighbouring farmers. This not only expanded their reach but also fuelled investment back into the business.
“We invested it back into the business, buying implements. I think we’ve done that for five years,” Mthombeni says, recalling the years of hard work and strategic planning.
Mthombeni describes himself as a milkman because back then he bought four milk cattle of which he sold the milk.
“With that money I’ve managed to pay the workforce, with the money from the leased arable land we were buying mechanisation,” he shares.
Not long thereafter, Mthombeni planted 36 sectors of pasture, some for their livestock and he sold the surplus as bales to the public. The additional generated income not only helped with the purchase of more implements but also allowed them to enhance their pasture for the livestock.
Farming is his forte
In 2009, Mthombeni applied for extra land because he had about 200 cattle and they were starting to overgraze the area that they had. The subsequent approval in 2012 opened doors to a Proactive Land Acquisition Strategy (Plas) farm. The farm was 1 539 hectares in total.
With his father managing operations and his sons who by then had grown up and gotten more involved in their future inheritance, agriculture became a way of life for the Mthombeni family.
The year 2014 saw a new chapter as Mthombeni delved into chicken farming, overcoming rejections and finally committing to agriculture full-time in 2015.
“Though I didn’t go to agricultural school, you cannot challenge me when it comes to agriculture,” he proudly asserts.
In this episode, he talks in-depth about how he manages the different aspects of his mixed farming operation. It’s quite a big farming operation, so you can imagine that it is no small feat, but Mthombeni shares with grace how he faces challenges head-on.
Want to know more? Listen to the full episode of Farmer’s Inside Track.
In the Farmer’s Inside Track Mentor Farmer podcast series, he shares how they are rebuilding and rebranding with valuable advice for novice avocado growers.
Sign up for Farmer’s Inside Track: Join our exclusive platform for new entrants into farming and agri-business, with newsletters and podcasts.