While financing continues to be a thorn in the side of black farmers in Mzansi, stigmas are the real barriers hampering the growth of newly commercialised farmers in the country. These were the remarks shared during a no-holds barred panel discussion at the historic first Farmer’s Inside Track Summit by Food For Mzansi.
The two-day summit currently underway at the Graham and Rhona Beck Skills Centre in Robertson, Western Cape attracted top farmers and agriculturists in the province.
Fynbos juggernaut Jacky Goliath told attendees that funding was not the only barrier standing in the way of growing black-owned farming businesses.
“Financing in general is a problem for black farmers,” she said during a panel discussion centered around the commercialisation of black farmers. “We do not own the land, so you don’t have something to go the bank with or whoever to say this is my collateral.”
Goliath and her business partner, Elton Jefthas, started the De Fynne Nursery in the Western Cape nearly 20 years ago. She was amongst several top Western Cape farmers in attendance at the two-day summit.
Shaking off the perceptions
The Farmer’s Inside Track Summit involved a series of power talks, panel discussions and masterclasses presented by the who’s who of agriculture in the province.
Delving deeper into the challenges faced by black commercial farmers, Goliath shared the harsh realities of what it means to be a black commercial farmer in Mzansi. She said that while black farmers are eager to learn the tricks of the trade, they struggle to shake off the stigma that they are only in the sector to “get rich quick”.
“[Black farmers don’t live in silos] We are placed in silos,” said Goliath. “The way we are handled, the way people look at you…it is not that we want to be in these silos….
“The perception out there when a black farmer gets a farm needs to change… that is up to us to change those perceptions…”
When it comes to access to land, Goliath is of the view that this should no longer be a barrier to entry for farmers.
“I think we have proven ourselves. Some of us have proven ourselves on our own to basically show that we can be successful. Why don’t you give us the land so that we can be more commercial and can be more successful?”
Hurdles farmers face
Goliath was joined by Alfreda Mars, a commercial grain and sheep farmer and the owner of Middelpos Farm in the Swartland region of the Western Cape, and Breyton Milford, operations manager at Agri-Expo.
Mars warned that farming was not a get rich quick scheme, adding that the biggest hurdle faced by black farmers in Mzansi is often determining the direction of their business.
“If you have a commercial business, cash is not king. The biggest hurdle is you need to focus where you want to go with your business. A lot of our small-scale farmers and upcoming farmers are passionate about it and they want to farm, they are eager to farm – but if they don’t see it as a business there will be no success in it,” she told attendees.
Meanwhile, building relationships in the sector is the key to success, Milford pointed out. He emphasised that mentorship is an important milestone in building a sustainable commercial enterprise.
“If you have the passion, you can make it work. If you show what you’re made of and show your business principles, then relationships will find you. Look for those people who are always willing to hold out a helping hand for you.”
Day two of the summit promises to help farmers take those crucial first steps towards profitability and sustainability in the agriculture sector and pave the way for a new era in farming. Stay tuned to Food For Mzansi for more on the Farmer’s Inside Track Summit.
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