Tonight on TV: Breaking gender barriers in grain farming

Today, farmer Gugulethu Mahlangu, who is also a Sinelizwi citizen journalist, meets successful grain and sheep farmer Alfreda Mars. She is featured in tonight's episode of “For the love of the land”, a new farmers’ TV show on People’s Weather

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They say men are from Mars, but have you heard about Alfreda? Alfreda Mars, the inspirational grain and sheep farmer who has been breaking all sorts of barriers in the Western Cape. Tonight, she is featured on For the love of the land, a brand-new farmers’ show on DSTV and Openview.

Mars, an experience commercial-scale farmer, has made great strides in a male-dominated industry. Her inspiring story will be broadcast at 18:00 and 21:00 tonight and 10:00 tomorrow morning. Be sure to tune in on People’s Weather (PPL WX) on DStv channel 180 and Openview channel 115.

In anticipation of the show, produced by Food For Mzansi in partnership with the VKB Group, Mars chats to Gugulethu Mahlangu, a Gauteng-based farmer and participant of Food For Mzansi’s Sinelizwi citizen journalism programme.

Gugulethu Mahlangu is a Gauteng-based farmer and participant in Food For Mzansi's citizen journalism programme. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Gugulethu Mahlangu is a Gauteng-based farmer and participant in Food For Mzansi’s citizen journalism programme. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Gugulethu Mahlangu: As a farmer, what are the benefits of joining commodity organisations, such as Grain SA?

Alfreda Mars: To be part of an organisation like Grain SA, each developing farmer gets access to market reports, financial training, farmers’ days, demonstration trials and the opportunity to be part of study groups and conservation agriculture.

You have also ventured into sheep farming. Which breed of sheep are you focusing on and why?

Dohne Merino is a dual-purpose sheep (in other words, it is farmed for both wool and meat). It has huge impact on a farming business’ cash flow because I get money for the wool it gives and the meat.

How does agricultural technology play a role in the operation of a grain farming?

Agricultural technology leads to a better profitability. Your business is more viable and sustainable with technology while you’re also improving on your soil health and productivity. Without the technology available, it would be difficult to be a competitor in the grain market.

As a farmer, Alfreda Mars understands the value of good relationships with her neighbours. But in Frans van Wyk and Arnold Arendse she also found friendship. Image: WYRD Films
As a farmer, Alfreda Mars understands the value of good relationships with her neighbours. But in Frans van Wyk and Arnold Arendse she also found friendship. Image: WYRD Films
You are pioneer in breaking many stereotypes in your field. What is your advice for female farmers (with no experience) who want to follow in your footsteps?
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Change your mindset as a female farmer to a be real farmer in a man’s world. My belief is that farming is not about gender. In my opinion, it is for the love of the land and food security. Be sustainable and profitable. Do your best to learn and succeed in the agriculture sector, you can do it!

When doing your market research for your business, what are your three tips and tricks?

Keep a close eye on markets every day. Be part of institutions that give information on market trends. Especially our new era farmers, they need to understand what markets are all about, such as Safex, crude oil index, Rand vs. dollar/Euro etc.

Ok, Merino breed sheep vs. Dorper breed sheep. Who is your winner?

Merino sheep graze on soft leave grasses and they are very selective on grazing. Dorpers are more a Karoo sheep and graze on Karoo bush leaves. Dorpers are also stronger sheep in dry areas. The adaptability of Dorpers is not favourable in the Swartland area (of the Western Cape) where I farm. I’m a believer in a dual sheep like the Dohne Merino for profitability.

Be sure to tune in tonight on People’s Weather (PPL WX) on DStv channel 180 and Openview channel 115 to see Alfreda Mars in episode 2 of For the love of the land. The episode is broadcast at 18:00 and 21:00 tonight and 10:00 tomorrow morning. Tune in tomorrow evening at the same times for episode 2.

ALSO READ: ‘Politics and greed don’t work with farming’

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