‘Let’s unite behind farmers,’ pleads Food For Mzansi founders

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From the streets of Bloemfontein to Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital, Food For Mzansi’s endeavour to salute the often unsung heroes of agriculture has not gone unnoticed. Founding members Ivor Price and Kobus Louwrens have been crisscrossing the country along with VKB, a leading agricultural enterprise, to share the good news from the farms and agri-businesses who feed the nation.

In candid interviews with kykNET’s breakfast show, Die Groot Ontbyt, GROOTfm 90.5, Pretoria FM and OFM, the trio shared their passion to promote a more nuanced perception of the agricultural industry.

Price, who last year travelled more than 100 000km to tell the stories of 52 exceptional agriculturalists, told kykNET TV presenters Elsa Esterhuizen, Johrné van Huyssteen and Hendri Myburgh that he believes in the power of the agricultural industry to promote social cohesion.

Johrné van Huyssteen and Elsa Esterhuizen (seated) with Deon van der Ross, Ivor Price, Kobus Louwrens and Hendri Myburgh in “Die Groot Ontbyt” TV studio in Pretoria.

“I’m the last person who should be an agricultural ambassador just because of the way I grew up with perceptions, like many South Africans, about agriculture and farmers. I had a Damascene conversion when I realized that, contrary to public perception, our farmers are committed to bring about much-needed change.”

Louwrens, who is the Strategy Director for YehBaby Digital Creatives and Brand Managers, a leading digital agency, told Henk Joubert, a Pretoria FM presenter, that they are committed to inspiring South Africans with the “true face of agriculture”.

He admits, however, that there still is a major gap between how many white and black people experience the industry, and Food For Mzansi is the ideal platform to help South Africans overcome the gap.

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Pretoria FM presenter Henk Joubert

“There is a value chain that includes many people and many networks, and it is part of what we are trying to make people aware of. There are various career opportunities that most people never knew about. There are so many more options than just owning a farm or working on one.”

Van der Ross, who also farms with sheep and macadamia nuts, says he knows from his own experience how invaluable mentorship by commercial farmers is in the country’s land reform programme.

VKB has been instrumental in many successful mentorship alliances between commercial and new farmers. This includes an asparagus project which created almost 900 jobs in the Eastern Free State, as well as a maize project in partnership with the Grain Farmer Development Association.

OFM’s Gerben van Niekerk interviewing Kobus Louwrens and Ivor Price live from their studio in Bloemfontein.

During an interview with Gerben van Niekerk, who hosts Before Dawn on OFM, Price said that Food For Mzansi will not rest until South Africans are united behind farmers, agri-workers and the industry at large. “Our farmers deserve our respect. They work tirelessly to feed close to 57 million people on a daily basis.”

According to Price people will respect agriculturalists more once they realise that they are already part of the agricultural value chain, whether they like it or not.

“The next time you eat a hamburger or drink a beer, remember that the food you eat and the drinks you enjoy started in the soil somewhere. As you put food in your supermarket trolley, spare a thought for the industry of land investors, farm and factory workers, scientists and marketers who enable South Africa to be one the most food secure country in Africa.”

Watch the kykNET interview

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