For Dikabelo Petrose (31), farming is more than just about having ownership of cattle or cultivating crops on a field. For him it is a serious business that needs undivided attention and willingness to adopt new ways of doing things.
“No really, if we want to expand, create jobs and feed the nation, our methods need to change. Unfortunately, we cannot farm like our forefathers did,” he states.
Although he admits that there’s nothing wrong with how things were done “back then”, he believes that the world of agriculture requires so much more of farmers these days.
Petrose is a livestock and crop farmer based in Kgokgole village in the North West farming with his younger brother, Tlamelo.
There the operate Mosalaesi Agribusiness and Projects, a family-owned cooperative farming enterprise on ten hectares of communal land with cattle, goats, cow peas and yellow maize. They also recently added poultry to their offering.
Difference between livestock farmers and livestock owners
The farming venture was started many years ago by his father, although it was only recently formalised as an agribusiness. His father was a part-time farmer, working full-time on the mines in Rustenburg.
Thanks to inspirational stories of other young farmers making successful careers out of farming, Petrose realised that he and his family had to take it more seriously.
“Back then, things were different. I can’t say we were farmers although we had cattle. A better phrase I think would be livestock owners.
“My father never did record keeping or monitoring of the trends. He was doing his thing and praying that the cattle stay alive,” he says.
Petros recalls great memories working alongside his father on the farming property and explains that farming was something he has always wanted to do. In fact, he describes it as a “culture”.
“I remember milking goats since the age of eight. Goat’s milk was the only milk we used back then and every morning we would milk for fresh milk. That was the best milk ever,” he says.
After his father passed away in 2010, things were not easy at the Petrose residence.
“My father was the sole breadwinner and we depended on him, a lot. At the time of his passing, we had two tractors, but we had to sell one for money,” he says.
Learning from a distance and agri challenges
Although never having had the opportunity to study agriculture formally, Dikabelo says he learns every day from others. He considers it important to learn from and grow through other people’s experiences.
“I learn from a distance,” Petrose says. “I find inspiration from the agricultural support groups I surround myself with and through reading farming books.
“Remember, not all of us are academically inclined, so learning from other people is easier than learning theory. In farming most things are practical anyway,” he states.
Petrose does, however, plan to participate in short courses in order to improve his farming business.
“This industry is for everyone as long as you have an interest and passion.”
His biggest challenge, he says, has been not having access to his own land. “It’s not easy farming on communal land, because you share the space with other farmers who sometimes share the same resources.”
Despite this, he expresses his excitement about his future in the agriculture sector and he has big plans to expand his business’ goat production. He also hopes to sell their own packaged chicken to retail stores.
He believes agriculture does not have to be exclusive and that those who wish to enter the sector should not be afraid to do so.
“This industry is for everyone as long as you have an interest and passion. There are so many people that don’t have an agricultural background, but they are excellent farmers and food producers. They are doing it and they’re doing it well,” Petrose exclaims.