In this week’s virtually recorded podcast episode of Farmer’s Inside Track KwaZulu-Natal fruit farmer Morgan Brand joins us from Canaan, his father’s farm in Alfred County on the south coast of KZN.
In the episode, Brand bares his soul and shares details of his experiences under national lockdown. He chats to Food for Mzansi editor Dawn Noemdoe and co-founder Ivor Price on a variety of exciting experiences, from his journey to becoming a soil scientist, home brews and working hand in hand with his “Zulu mom”, Besta Ntobela.
“Besta is my Zulu mom. She started working on my gran’s farm in 1968. She remembers the day very clearly and she always tells me all these stories over a cup of tea.” He says working with her has been a great opportunity to understand somebody else’s perspective of what the farm is.
“Us working together now is absolutely beautiful, it’s like we’re best friends,” he says.
Brand spends most of his days in lockdown at his farm home on the south coast of KZN. Close to Canaan farm there is a large rural population. He says the atmosphere in this community is quite nonchalant. People there have still not come to grips with the potential effects of the novel coronavirus.
“I think there has been a lot of changes that they have had to adapt to. There has been a shake–up of their normal day-to-day life and a lot of people are confused and a bit lost as to what the future is going be like for them,” he says.
“The reality of the virus is still a bit of a joke for people here.”
“When you see the guys on the back of a bakkie and they’ve got their masks on, everybody has a good laugh at it, but it hasn’t really got into the communities yet, so I think the reality of it hasn’t hit us,” he adds.
Lockdown has, however, been a great platform for farmers to re-evaluate the direction in which they want their businesses to go. They have broken boundaries in the industry despite challenges with support from government.
“Farmers have upped their game!” he says proudly. “They have had to shuffle around the legislation providing the necessary precautionary or the necessary health materials like sanitizers and face masks.”
His father made a great impact in his journey as a soil scientist. Brand says he never had any aspirations of studying science, but his dad’s lessons had underlying values he would learn to appreciate.
“My dad is very sneaky like that,” he says. “He never directly told me that I should follow science. He never really told me what to do, he kind of guided me. He provided me with the tools that I needed to figure things out, and by giving me certain experiences maybe sparked a flame in the scientific side of me.”
Small-scale farmers are essential in meeting the demand for fresh produce in SA households, Brand believes.
“We are very lucky to have small-scale farmers who have the indigenous knowledge to grow food. And we need to look at diversifying nutritional quality and the variations you get for it.”
Brand believes that we need to work together with nature in order to make a success of a farming enterprise. “The land isn’t just going to do what we want it to do. We want to work with it, and together we can improve farming.”
He advises future farmers to make soil their priority in securing the sustainability of a farm, even though it can seem that the business imperative is more urgent.
“I understand the necessity of the business side is to make a profit, but at the cost of what? (This) is what we are going to discover one day when we realize that our soils are depleted and that the microbial systems that should be there are no longer there,” he warns.
- Morgan Brand’s full podcast interview with Food For Mzansi’s Dawn Noemdoe and Ivor Price can now be downloaded for free on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Subscribe to “Farmer’s Inside Track” on these channels for a weekly interview with Mzansi’s agricultural movers-and-shakers.