‘Find a market before planting any seeds,’ advises lemon farmer

Lemon farmer Wayne Mansfield credits his growth as a farmer to his challenges and his strong support system

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At 05:00 every morning on a farm in Paarl in the Western Cape, lemon farmer Wayne Mansfield wakes up to pray with his wife. For the 34-year-old farmer and his wife, Lizhandré, this is how they prepare for the day ahead.

Then Mansfield heads to his home office and starts doing the admin work for his farm. The father of two says he has had to transition to this managerial role because his business has grown immensely since 2014.

“I no longer have time to be on the farm 24/7 anymore because I am swarmed with admin work that comes with the business,” he shares.

READ MORE: How Wayne Mansfield went from fruit hawker to citrus farmer

Wayne Mansfield won the 2018 Western Cape New Entrant to Commercial Agriculture Award just three years after he started farming with lemons. Photo: Supplied

Mansfield has been farming on his twelve-hectare farm for six years and although his business is doing quite well today, he initially never thought that he would become a farmer.

It was in the back of my head, but I didn’t know that it could become reality. When I was a young boy my father used to farm on a small scale at home and we didn’t own any land at that stage. I also didn’t know anything about leasing land so I didn’t think it could happen,” he remembers.

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Today he is an award-winning commercial farmer who farms on land he leases from Fairview Wines, and he has created livelihoods for his six agri workers.

Mansfield shares that he has created good relationships with his workers, and they all work as a unit.

“On a normal day I go to the farm at 06:30 in the morning, especially now in the summer season. I check in with all my guys and see if they have done everything I had asked them the previous day. Sometimes when something is broken on the farm, I fix it and attend to all the things that need my attention,” he reveals.

Something that has been very hard to fix is farm theft. A recent spate of crimes has set Mansfield back significantly. “They stole everything, they stole all the equipment I use on the farm. Scissors, saws, shovels and cables… The theft damaged the pumps, so I needed to buy new pumps. Yoh, they really ripped me off this year.”

It was a hard financial knock, he reveals. “The sad part is that I was without water for a month, so we only started irrigating on the 30th of November. My trees are under stress now. We need to spray products to release them from the stress because they are not receiving any water. It is quite hectic this season.”

Wayne Mansfield’s wife Lizhandré and his six year old daughter and baby son. Photo: Supplied

Sadly, the police didn’t find any of the perpetrators, but he is slowly working towards replacing the equipment.

However, the year wasn’t all bad luck. Mansfield has a new-born son to look forward to when he returns home at the end of a hard day.

“My son was born on the 26th of April this year and I believe that has been my biggest blessing ever.” Mansfield is also extremely proud of his six-year-old daughter.

He indicates that having a supportive structure in his life has made it easier for him to deal with life’s trials and tribulations.

“Each day, each week, each month and each year has its challenges. Between 2017 and 2018 we had a drought. Last year we had troubles with capital, this year we had problems with theft. And each time I have struggled with something there are always people that I can get assistance from and there are always people to give some advice,” he says.

His challenges and the changes in his life have also cultivated growth in him and have allowed him to understand the people he works with better.

“Every season is different and every season we learn something new. I have definitely grown as a farmer and even the people have changed. So you need to adapt, and you need to understand that everybody is not the same,” he says.

“You need to treat everybody different because perhaps one guy is slower than the other guy. So yes, you grow a lot in the business, and I have learnt a lot each day.”

The Pniel-born farmer says that in the next five years he wants to expand his farm by planting more trees.

Wayne Mansfield and his agri workers. Left to right: Cathleen Dindal, Mansfield, Japie Adams, Claudio Afrika, Cole Lubbe & Brandon Tieties. Photo: Supplied

“My short-term goal is to plant as many hectares as I can over the next five years and hopefully in a couple of years’ time, I can build a pack house with my own branding,” he says.

His advice to young aspiring farmers who want to venture into farming is to establish an opening in the industry where they can sell their produce before starting production.

“If you have enough land and water to farm, look where the gaps are in the market. Don’t plant a product that you know that a lot of farmers a planting,” he advises.

“Find a market that you can supply your produce to. If you plant tomatoes and you know that there is a company that produces tomatoes in huge volumes, you can’t compete with that so try to see where the gaps are in the market. Find yourself a market before you plant any seeds,” he counsels.

He says capital is a huge stumbling block for emerging farmers so they need to protect themselves by securing a market which will earn them back the money they have used to plant.

ALSO READ: From fruit hawker to award-winning lemon farmer

  • Wayne Mansfield was recently featured in episode 9 of the agricultural TV show Vir die liefde van die land (For the love of the land). Catch the final episode of the show, featuring Limpopo farmer Aldrin Lawrence, this Thursday (10 December 2020) at 18:00 on VIA, DStv channel 147. The entire series is being repeated on the channel in early 2021, so watch the programme schedules not to miss that.
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