Despite his land reform victory against government, farmer Ivan Cloete shy’s away from the limelight. He has no bones to pick and his only agenda is to farm. Duncan Masiwa speaks to Cloete who is Food For Mzansi’s Newsmaker of the Year.
Let’s face it. Western Cape farmer Ivan Cloete had a very tough year. This after the portfolio committee for agriculture, land reform and rural development ordered the department of agriculture to investigate why dept. officials threatened to evict Cloete from his Colenso farm in Darling.
He is, however, determined to put the trauma of 2021 behind him and is already hard at work to grow his farming enterprise. Colenso needs all his attention. He farms with sheep, oats, lupin, pigs and barley on the 861-hectare farm.
Committed to farming
Cloete is testimony to the fact tough times never last, but tough people do. Eight months after his land reform saga made nationwide headlines, he speaks to Food For Mzansi about the road ahead and his love for farming.
It is a journey that started nearly two decades ago. To truly understand his love of the land, Cloete explains, though, that one needs to go back in time even further.
“I’ve been in the sector for 18 years, but my journey starts much earlier than that. You must go deep into my history. Farming started in my childhood days. It’s in my childhood days where the farming roots were planted.”
His father was a mine worker and n avid goat farmer in Okiep in the Northern Cape. But hold up, Cloete is quick to point out that this is also not where the farming bug first bit him.
Early mornings before heading to school, Cloete would first have to make a stop at the goat’s shed. A daily duty, he explains was not optional. “We simply had to do it. Before school we had to go and fetch the goats and early in the mornings, we had to milk them.”
It was in his teenage years that Cloete had to look for work because his family were facing tough times. “We struggled as a family, so we had to working during the holidays. I remember looking for work and applying at BKB in Springbok. That was in 1980, I think. I was still in school and I got the job. The extra money helped our family.”
His first paid job was to look after sheep and to collect them from various farms in the region. To get to work, Cloete and his friends had to walk for more than two hours to catch a lift in Springbok on a truck that would transport agricultural workers.
“Sometimes, we would return home late at night. They would drop [us] off in Springbok then [we] would still have to walk the ten kilometres [back] to get home. [Sometimes, we only got home at] eleven o’clock at night.”
But, once again, tough times never last, but tough people do. Cloete smiles when he reflects on his journey and proudly says, “Back then I would run after sheep that belonged to other farmers, but today I farm my own sheep and BKB is marketing my sheep for me.”
In October this year Cloete was awarded a prize for being the seller with the highest turnover at the Darling auction held on 28 October.
Expanding the business
Cloete describes himself as a go-getter and a positive person. “Where someone else would see nothing, I would see potential and opportunity.”
Yes, 2021 was a tough year, but now his adamant on moving forward after a series of traumatic land reform blunders that threatened to steal his joy. This, he says, includes attacks on his family.
With a 30-year lease agreement finally in place, Cloete faithfully runs the farm alongside his wife, who is also a director in the enterprise. She manages all the administrative duties while he runs the farm.
Although he is known as a sheep and pig farmer, he has recently also started growing barley which he processes, mixes and feeds to his sheep.
“We start feeding from early March, just before lambing time. And then we carry on like that until the end of July or the beginning of August. Other than that, the sheep [graze in the fields].”
Cloete farms forward because going backwards isn’t an option.