Every Friday, we introduce you to a different young farmer who has grown their enterprises with the help of the prestigious farmer development programme. This week, we travel to the Free State to meet Hudson Dhladhla, who is planting more maize and earning more money with FarmSol.
Hudson Dhladhla believes in doing things right the first time. The twenty-six-year-old grows maize with his father, Stoffel Tawa Dhladhla, on a farm in Toekomst, near Harrismith in the Free State.
The younger Dhladhla joined his father on the farm shortly after matriculating, but he believes in improving his knowledge through studying part-time. He is also accompanied on his growth path by Barry Nel, a mentor that he gained through his involvement with the FarmSol Mentorship Programme.
Nel, his FarmSol extension officer, is impressed with his conscientiousness. “Hudson is eager to learn new things, always asks questions and does not hesitate to phone when attempting something new. He and his father are pioneers amongst new farmers in the Free State.”
Growing their business
Dhladhla’s farming career started early. “My father worked on a farm before we got our own land and I, since childhood, spent most of my afternoons, weekends and holidays helping him work the land. I have always been passionate about farming, as it is one of the greatest contributors to food security, not only in South Africa but the whole world.”
The Dhladhlas started farming on their own land in 1996, when they acquired their farm via the national land reform programme. They received the title deed in 2009 and never looked back. “It is a good farm, at the right location and with good, fertile soils,” Dhadhla says.
Initially, they only farmed white maize. They considered farming with cattle, but have now added yellow maize to their portfolio thanks to their collaboration with FarmSol, which unlocked market access to South African Breweries.
In future, he wants to increase his yellow maize planting to 100 hectares, and then 150 hectares. His plans for adding livestock are also still underway, and he aims to diversify his farming operation to include cattle, sheep and some pigs.
For now though, he is optimistic about their July harvest, expecting yields of 7.5 tonnes per hectare. While most of the older generation farmers still plough weed back into the land before planting, Dhladhla and his father took the leap and did a chemical burn-down this season.
“Burn-down is more expensive but results in less competition with weeds. The Dhladhlas will see the results come harvest time,” Nel says.
The Dhladhlas are also leaders when it comes to fertiliser application. They utilise liquid fertiliser instead of pellets. Nel explains that liquid fertiliser application is more efficient than the use of pellets, and also does not have to be washed into the soil with rain.
Getting the proper training
Dhadhla is invested in educating himself more about his craft. He says that perseverance and education are what you need to make it as a farmer in South Africa.
“Farming is in my blood, but even so, I have not stopped learning after joining the farm full-time after school. Since then, I have won the Top Achiever in the NQF 2 course on plant production in 2018 and will complete my NQF Level 4 in plant and animal production this year.”
Through the FarmSol Mentorship Programme, Dhadhla also completed mechanisation training. The training has come in handy, as he is in charge of the mechanisation programme on the farm.
“We have two tractors, and I can do everything from servicing tractors to the calibration of planters, which helps to save time and money,” he says.
Not everything is always easy in farming and Dhadhla has had his fair share of trouble this season. Heavy and persistent rain has prevented them from entering the fields and applying certain crop sprays early in the season.
But Dhadhla takes a philosophical approach: “Some problems are unresolvable. If it rains, it rains. If it does not rain, it does not rain. However, with other problems, one can make a plan. After this season, I will have a look at the contours on our farm and see if we can improve them to prevent the waterlogging with which we struggled this season.”