‘Politics and greed don’t work with farming’

Gugulethu Mahlangu, a farmer and participant of the Sinelizwi citizen journalist programme, sits down with seasoned farmer Samson Mahlaba. He is featured in “For the love of the land”, a new farmers’ TV show debuting tonight on People’s Weather

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Farmer Samson Mahlaba has been working the land since 1969, so if anybody can give farming advice from experience, it’s him. Mahlaba’s inspiring story is told in the first episode of For the love of the land.

This is a brand-new TV show debuting this evening on People’s Weather (PPL WX) on DStv channel 180 and Openview channel 115.

Samson Mahlaba farms on 300 hectares in Reitz in the Free State. He is featured on the new TV show For The Love Of The Land. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi
Samson Mahlaba farms on 300 hectares in Reitz in the Free State. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

With zero formal agricultural training, Mahlaba learnt loads from his father and local farmers, and he always knew he would get a farm of his own one day.

The TV show, produced by Food For Mzansi in partnership with the VKB Group, sees award-winning presenter Ivor Price and cattle farmer Piet Potgieter travel the length and breadth of South Africa. They visit farmers to hear their inspiring stories and meet the people and communities who helped them get a foothold in the agriculture sector.

Gugulethu Mahlangu: So, you have been in the farming game since 1969! Please share with us the benefits of experience.

Samson Mahlaba: I have had no training in agriculture. I worked for a farmer who started teaching me farming in 1969. I knew that one day if I had a farm of my own, I could apply my experience better as a farmer on the ground. So, here’s the thing, after so many years I only obtained my own farm five years ago. Even as I started my farming enterprise, I knew that experience was my best teacher all along.

How do you think the younger and older generations in farming can benefit from on another?

The younger generation farm like they know it all, when farming is not easy. Just because you observe a farmer farming, that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to farm, and I find a lot of young people thinking that. Farming for one year does not mean you know the ins and outs of farming. Observing a start-up farm for one year doesn’t mean you can mimic that person and make profit.

“I learned that politics and greed don’t work with farming. Agriculture is about working with people and nature.”

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My grandchildren grew up on a farm and one of then studied the profession. His studies were very valuable, but the younger generation feel like they know it all after their studies. There’s so much an experienced farmer can teach you. So we all need each other.

There are a lot of political influences in farming, yet you rose above that and made a new family with your current mentors. How can we rise above these trying political times?

I started with nothing but a dream when I started working for a farmer in 1969. I persevered as an employee to a business owner for all these years. When my employer had too many cows, he would offer to give us the extra cows and I saw an opportunity.

I started applying for land and I waited for years and years, that’s why I’ll always say patience is required of those wanting to pursue farming. I got the farm only five years ago and the support I got from my employer was heart warming. 

My employer introduced me to the VKB company and I managed to get funds and mentorship to help me start my business. Money started coming in but I knew I had to invest it back into farming for the next year. In my experience, I learned that politics and greed don’t work with farming. Agriculture is about working with people and nature.

You still want to expand, what are your future plans?

I am still looking for more land, I feel like I’m in a better position to start planting more than I do currently. I want to expand into commodities such as maize.

Is there a trick to farming with soybeans?

There are many ways to plant soybeans, but I always stick to the older method. Start with getting your soil tests done at the department of agriculture, get your results before you buy fertilisers and inputs. Remember that soybeans need a lot of water, so start planting in October to get the summer rains.

ALSO READ: Meet the farming twins, Karabo and Kamohelo Mahlaba

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