Building a farming empire requires help – lots of it!

Kamogelo Hantise is the owner of a vegetable hydroponic business in the Northern Cape, which she founded after dropping out of college. Photo: Supplied/FoodForMzansi

Kamogelo Hantise is the owner of a vegetable hydroponic business in the Northern Cape, which she founded after dropping out of college. Photo: Supplied/FoodForMzansi

When Northern Cape farmer Kamogelo Hantise started her successful hydroponic farming enterprise in 2019 with the help of funding, she quickly realised that her success was tied to others beside herself.

The 29-year-old farms with a range of vegetables under her company name, Batsha Ba Temo, which loosely translates to youth in agriculture.

Situated in Kuruman, they produce green peppers, cucumbers, lettuce, green beans and chilli peppers, which is sold to informal markets, schools, her community and even the Khumani iron mine in the Northern Cape. The produce grows in three tunnels on land owned by Hantise’ grandmother.

One thing she never wants to forget is that her growing agri business was not built alone, she says. She had help, and lots of it. 

“When I refer to the business, I can’t say I started it. It is very difficult for me, even though I own the business. If it weren’t for my workers, customers, and family I wouldn’t be where I am today,” she says.  

Some things just do not work together

Before life as a farmer, Hantise was working on achieving her marketing management and entrepreneurship qualification at Benoni East TVET college in 2015. Then she fell pregnant and her life took a slight detour. Being a pregnant student proved to be incredibly challenging, so she dropped out.

Her business was started in 2019 after working as farm assistant for one year. Photo: Supplied/FoodForMzansi.

“For me it was very difficult and on top of that I fell sick. I gave birth two days before exams started. I was like, oh my gosh, what have I done to myself?” she laughs.

“You can’t learn when you are pregnant. You can’t. I’m telling you,” she says.

That is why, whenever presented with the opportunity, she advises youngsters to attend school to get educated “and not other things”.

“There’s morning sickness, you’re always tired and want to sleep. Uh-uh. No! Pregnancy and education are not in the same WhatsApp group. The two don’t work together,” she states.

After giving birth to a healthy baby girl, Lesedi, Hantise looked for a job and ended up at Driehoek Farm in North West as a farm assistant for one year in 2017.

It is there where she was first exposed to agriculture and learned to appreciate its “longevity” and “resilience”.

As a young mother herself, Kamogelo believes young people should focus on school work. Photo: Supplied/FoodForMzansi

“Agriculture is a sector that will keep on growing. It will never go away, because people will always need food. I love agriculture, today you plant something as simple as a seed and tomorrow it’s food,” Hantise says.  

Then, after her contract ended, she moved back home and felt ready to take her chances on farming for herself. This, despite having little agricultural experience.

However, to make up for her lack in background, Hantise reached out to neighbouring farmers for advice and guidance. In addition, she also did short training courses to help pilot her farming journey.

Starting a business with help

In 2019 – the year she registered her business, Hantise was selected for business funding from the large Khumani iron mine located in the Northern Cape.

The opportunity awarded her six months of business training from the Mudzi Consulting for Business Development Programme and start-up capital of R120 000.

Then, early in 2020, the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development, as well as the Agriculture Research Council, trained her in conservation agriculture. Later, in September, she received five days of training from the National Youth Development Agency who also gave her a R50 000 cash injection.

‘This is why I say I didn’t get here alone, I had help,’ Hantise says.

“I think as farmers we must be very grateful for the people around us. Don’t take them for granted, but be grateful and appreciate them.”

She says that just because farmers pay their employees’ salaries, does not mean they (farmers) are being grateful. Hantise believes farmers should also be able to connect with their workers in a way that makes them feel like family.

“Remember, they are your business’s ambassadors, so even if they are not at work they should be able to say that they are proud to be working at your company. Involve them in your decisions, so that they can be morally inspired and proud,” she explains.

Farming woes and future plans

Being a new business owner meant that every part of your business keeps you up at night, she says.

“It was a struggle getting to everything. First, I had to deal with water issues because of the lack thereof in our village. I was also struggling to market my business and products. Luckily, after some time, my challenges were addressed and I could sleep better at night,” she says.

During 2020 production went down as a result of the pandemic. Spar, who was her biggest client, could no longer order from her because she struggled to keep up with their demand.

However, when the retailer in Kuruman has shortages, they contact her.

Kamogelo supplies vegetables to her community, informal markets, schools and even the local mine. Photo: Supplied/FoodForMzansi

Despite farming woes, Hantise is far from giving up and plans to scale up and be able to export the produce that she hopes to cultivate on 300 hectares one day.

She would also like to expand into agroprocessing and increase her product offering.

Recently she was awarded R82 500 by the National Empowerment Fund which she plans to use on marketing, packaging material, a mobile freezer for long distance supply and ensuring her business.

“I am very excited about the road ahead. I’m very grateful things are just going the way I want them to go. And there’s even a borehole in my future, so things are looking up for me,” she says.

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