For most of her life, Mavis Nomvula Hlatshwayo has been committed to farming. Although she only attended school up until grade 3, Hlatshwayo has always worked hard to ensure that her children get a good education. Today, they assist their award-winning mother in running her farm.

Hlatshwayo’s two sons, Sabelo and Vincent, are actively involved in the day-to-day running of the farm. Sabelo says farming is a part of who they are and how they were raised. “My mom taught us farming from a very young age. She is the one who also assisted us to go to universities.”

Hlatshwayo is from Hereford in Mpumalanga, where she farms with Nguni cattle and maize. With her smile just as contagious as her passion for the land, Hlatshwayo says farming makes her happy.

In 2005 she joined Grain SA, the non-profit organisation representing grain producers of South Africa. Soon Hlatshwayo became a study group member and regularly attended the organisation’s meetings and workshops. Through the programmes that Grain SA offered, she was introduced to new farming methods, which helped to increase her harvest per hectare.

“Grain SA helped so much. They taught me how to farm. We used to farm with a tractor and tilled the soil. Now we don’t till the soil. We just open lines to break the stones. That helps to retain water and the fertiliser stays in place,” says Hlatshwayo.

Vincent, who studied animal production at Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria, assists his mother to grow their Nguni herd. He also extends this care beyond his own family by helping other farmers in the area.

Her hard work has not gone unnoticed. Hlatshwayo was named the 2017 Grain SA/ABSA/John Deere Financial Subsistence Farmer of the Year. Besides being a remarkable farmer, Hlatshwayo is also an upstanding member of her community.

She is part of Sizanani Society, an organisation formed by a group of women who support each other and who look after the less fortunate in their community.

Hlatshwayo continues to farm and says she will persist in developing what she loves best. “I want to be on a higher level in farming. I see these hectares I have planted as very little. I want to increase the number of hectares I’m farming on and move forward.”