Born with green fingers and a twin brother, Louis Pretorius (61) fondly reminisces growing vegetables at the budding age of eight. He produced pumpkins and potatoes in his family’s vegetable garden in Noodsberg, KwaZulu-Natal long before he even dreamt of farming.
Pretorius’s dad, Lowtjie, worked in the mining industry when he was born in Klerksdorp, North West in 1957. After about six years, his father was appointed as process manager for the Noodsberg Sugar Mill, close to Dalton, a village 11 kilometres east of New Hanover in KZN. His mother, Marie, was a teacher who raised him, his twin, Schoombee and older brother, Henk.
Pretorius started his schooling at Dalton Primary and continued at Wartburg Primary. In 1971 he progressed to Voortrekker High school in Pietermaritzburg and later embarked on his tertiary education at the University of Pretoria while working for the department of agriculture as a field officer in 1976.
“After a decade at the department of agriculture I realized that I needed something more challenging,” says Pretorius. He completed an agricultural degree at the Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth during his employment at Potatoes South Africa in 1987.
At Potatoes SA, Pretorius was appointed as their regional officer to serve the Eastern Cape, North Eastern Cape and Southern Cape regions. In 2007 he was transferred to Pietermaritzburg to serve both KZN and the northern part of the Eastern Cape.
His passion for teaching and developing farmers to progress is what drives his work at Potatoes South Africa. In 2013, Pretorius was appointed transformation coordinator at the company.
“I enjoy working with people, teaching them how to farm if they have access to land. It’s hard work but the reward outweighs the hard work by far.”
Affordable equipment, funding and drought are some of the main challenges faced by farmers in the potato industry, says Pretorius.He adds that they’ve developed special affordable equipment to assist small-holder farmers at Hankey in the Eastern Cape. They have also introduced different planting methods to mitigate this challenge in regions with poor rainfall.
To support small holder farmers, Potatoes South Africa runs a marketing day for each project to assist farmers to market their product. “At these market days, it is rewarding to witness the appreciation of people that had nothing before and now have food security and are able to generate much needed income.”
When asked what makes this humble spud special to him? Pretorius says it can go a long way to ensure food security.
Do the basics right regarding THE production of potatoes and prevent children going to bed hungry.
“I have learnt never to give up and relentlessly peruse my goals,” says Pretorius who runs daily and completed the Comrades Marathon (a 89 km ultra-marathon between Durban and Pietermaritzburg) in both directions. He adds that running this marathon has changed his outlook on life and the way he sees others.
In a few years’ time Pretorius will retire at Potatoes South Africa to spend time with his wife Ricky and family. He will, however, still strive to work with people after retirement in some shape or form.