It’s two-in-a-row for Free State dairy farmer

Nompe Zim, a Free State farmer, was named the ARC's National Small-Scale Master Dairyman of the Year. She dedicated her award to her late father. Photo:Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Nompe Zim, a Free State farmer, was named the ARC's National Small-Scale Master Dairyman of the Year. She dedicated her award to her late father. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

A Free State farmer, Nompe Zim, dedicated her ARC National Small-Scale Master Dairyman of the Year award to her father, Jan, who passed away last year. Zim received the prestigious award, presented by the Agricultural Research Council, for a second consecutive year.

Zim, who first fell in love with farming after observing her father as a child, says she no choice but to pick up where her father left off. Their Zim Dairy enterprise is based between Harrismith and Kestell.

An emotional Zim says, “I just want to thank, specifically, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) who taught me a lot, especially with the logistics of transporting our milk and other aspects. We have been exposed to a lot. Taking over from my father was never easy. However, he had laid a good foundation as he introduced us to farming from an early age because we stayed in a farming area [near Phuthaditjhaba].”

Zim says it was important to build on her father’s legacy. Currently, she milks 66 cows though she hopes to increase this to 160 in the near future. “I believe it is an attainable goal. I am still young. My dad had to start from starch, I am lucky that I am continuing where he left off.”

This year’s National Master Dairyman Awards was presented virtually by Agri-Expo on behalf of the ARC’s National Milk Recording and Improvement Scheme. The JK Basson Family Trust near Darling in the Western Cape was announced as ARC National Master Dairyman of the Year.

ARC board chairperson, Joyene Isaacs, says the dairy sector is growing at a rapid pace, but transformation and mentorship remain crucial to ensure that the next generation of farmers had a solid foundation to work from.

She reiterates that the journey towards transforming the sector was not an overnight event but needed many partners to work together and pull in one direction.

“Our message to the young people who want to get into the sector is that if you are serious about the dairy industry, go sit with those people who have done it and ask how they started it. Learn from them. It is not easy. It is extremely difficult to crack the whip.”

Furthermore, Isaacs encouraged more women to choose agriculture. They should know that they are not only feeding themselves, but also the nation. “Never let people tell you that you cannot win. Women can [win] and are creative.”

Awards founder honoured

The founder of the National Master Dairyman Awards, Dr Jakkie du Toit, was also honoured following his retirement after 41 years in agriculture. “This is something I did not expect. I feel very humble and privileged to receive this award,” he says.

Meanwhile Basson dreams about dramatically increasing his milk production from the current 824 cows. “This is not really about competing but motivating one another. There is no winner nor loser. We all made it. It is not easy in the industry. It takes a lot of time and energy to do what we do with so many sacrifices to endure.”

The awards ceremony was opened by Dr Hilton Vergotine, acting president and CEO of the ARC. He highlighted some achievements, namely an average of 71 farmers who tested 10 574 cows per month and received 426 technical reports per month overall. “Three dairy farmers upgraded from smallholder to semi-commercial and one from semi-commercial to commercial.”

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