It is prudent to possess a variety of skills, Vuyokazi Poppy believes, particularly when you are living in South Africa. Like her ancestors, this Eastern Cape chef fell in love with farming and shows off her skills through her poultry business, Inakum Poultry Farming.
Farming has long been a part of Poppy’s family’s life. She grew up in an environment where farming was not taken seriously as a means of making money, but rather as a means of putting food on the table.
She has ignored the haters and established her own poultry business in the township of Bhongweni, East London. This go-getter is also dabbling in crop production on a half-acre of land by growing maize for her chicken feed.
Learning from her ancestors
Poppy wears many hats and loves to work with her hands.
In 2018, she earned her chef’s diploma from East London’s Alfresco Academy of Food & Wine and became a professional chef. “My late dad was a great chef. As a child, I used to love to watch him whip up delicious foods. I made up my mind that I’d proceed in the same direction.”
After finishing her diploma in culinary arts, she didn’t waste any time getting into the poultry farming industry.
“My goal was to find an activity that doesn’t rely on other people. In this field, I am able to indulge my lifelong passion for working with my hands to create something magical.”
Learning hard lessons
In 2019, Poppy became anxious and learned from her research that chicken farming is not an easy business to start. She says the competition scared her, especially in poultry farming.
“I saved money on a project I completed for my primary firm, Inakum Pty Ltd. It took my brother and me two weeks to complete the structure.”
To start, she bought 100 broiler chicks and 30 layer chicks. She says there were many obstacles to overcome that required more research.
“For the first time, the mortality rate was low. The second time, I was better able to focus. When I immediately went to 300 chicks, everything started to go wrong.”
“It turned out that the chicks weren’t broilers, but a mix of Hyline Silver. The chicks didn’t grow, and for two weeks they looked like they were a day older. We even called them oohili’ (tikoloshe).”
Taking into account all of the costs involved – from load shedding and high power prices to chicken feeds – it was too much, according to Poppy. She was then forced to implement a plan B, and so she planted a small plot of maize next door.
Always thinking ahead
Poppy had always wanted to be a lawyer, but when a city and guilds recognised cooking school became available, she decided to take advantage of the opportunity instead. There was a gap in her legal heart, however, and now she’s a third-year LLB student at Unisa (University of South Africa).
“I like to think of myself as a strong competitor. I compete with myself, I set my goals and stick to them. My expectations are generally rather high. I’d want to be recognised for my crafted effort.”
Her customer base consists of every household in her surrounding areas, such as ePhumlani, Ntenteni, Magalini, Kwa-kuni, Dayisi, and Ezigodweni.
“Receiving compliments from satisfied clients is the greatest reward.”
Poppy aims to branch out into frozen chicken and enter the market to become the preferred provider of a variety of farm-fresh chicken. She wants to highlight women in the agribusiness industry, particularly in the commercial realm.
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