At the tender age of 15, Zimbili Mfusi received a remarkable gift from her mother – a farm of her very own. But even with such a generous gift, Mfusi wanted nothing to do with agriculture and went on to pursue a qualification in public relations. Soon enough, she would realise that she’d wandered in the wrong direction and would make her way back to the farm.
“I started farming after I couldn’t find an in-service training in public relations. So, I decided to venture into farming since I was exposed to it the most around my area which is Wakkerstroom.”
Today, she runs three farms. Two of the farms – 100 hectares in total – are situated in Wakkerstroom in KwaZulu-Natal where she plants vegetables and grains. On another 100-hectare piece of land, she breeds poultry. And on 362 hectares, 80km from Wakkerstroom, she has livestock grazing on leased land.
A mother always knows best
From a young age, Mfusi’s mother, Nomini Ngwenya, instilled in her the value of hard work and self-sufficiency. Her mother was a cattle farmer too. At first, it was for her family’s sustenance but she later started trading at auction markets.
With her mother’s encouragement and support, Mfusi began to develop her own farming business in 2021, following in her mother’s footsteps and learning the tricks of the trade.
Managing an agribusiness of this magnitude
Since starting, Mfusi has raised herself a flourishing agricultural empire, boasting an impressive agribusiness with over 400 livestock and a diverse crop portfolio.
Her production includes 38 Nguni goats, 57 Fries Melkschaap sheep, and 387 Beefmaster cattle. Her crops include spinach, cabbage, green beans, carrots, beetroot, pumpkin, gem squash, potatoes, and onions.
Running an agribusiness of this size requires meticulous strategising and substantial financial management. This is why keeping track of finances and staying informed about market conditions is key to the success of her business, she tells Food For Mzansi.
“I do an enterprise budget, cash flow and a five-year projection. This helps a lot because I can see if I made a profit or a loss. I can easily determine the changes in prices per session by browsing through my previous enterprises’ budgets.”
Diversification is crucial
Mfusi suggests not making decisions based on market changes but taking a strategic approach to financial management. She also believes diversification is crucial, and that a farmer should have a backup plan.
“During winter I cannot plant vegetables due to frost, so I diversify to livestock and poultry. I do frozen chicken and meat production during that season.
“I value add my products through agro-processing by making spices and sauces with the waste from the garden.”
Mfusi also credits her agricultural training and education. Apart from attending workshops hosted by the department of agriculture, she has also participated in programmes hosted by the South African Bureau of Standards and Perishable Products Export Control Board.
Mfusi’s unwavering dedication
Mfusi has a wide network of customers and this approach benefits her greatly. Not only does this help with increased sales, but also financial stability, market diversification, and opportunities for growth and innovation.
Mfusi is so dedicated to meeting the needs of her customers that she travels up to 60 kilometres to supply customers in KZN and Mpumalanga.
In addition to supplying Levi Supermarket with fresh vegetables, spices and sauces, she also supplies clinics, hospitals, and over five schools in Wakkerstroom with her products. She even supplies hotels in the area with her high-quality fresh produce.
“I wanted to reach out to as many people as possible. I believe in direct marketing so that’s why I go straight to my customers than to involve a middleman.”
She attributes much of her success to technology, as it has allowed her to reach a wider range of customers. She says that technology has saved her time and energy, as well as opened up new opportunities for her business.
“These tools are all useful to me in my farming space and they’ve made life much easier for me.”
Dream big or not at all
Mfusi highlights that agriculture comes with its fair share of difficulties. Hers includes livestock theft, storms and heavy rainfall, labour issues, power outages, equipment and machinery malfunctions, and limited water resources.
“I have overcome some of the challenges of farming by networking with other farmers and continuing to learn,” she says.
Despite these challenges, Mfusi knows how to keep it moving with her eyes on the prize. Her long-term goals include planting maize on at least 1 000 hectares, which she plans to process into her own branded maize meal. “This will ensure it goes straight from the fields to the production plant.”
When it comes to poultry, she’s eyeing a chicken coup with a 30 000 to 40 000 bird capacity. “I’d like to do both broilers and layers. I’d like to have a bigger incubator, own an abattoir, and a huge cold room facility.”
And if that’s not enough, Mfusi wants to explore meat processing, have her products featured at all the major retail chains in South Africa, own a farming academy, and plant under tunnels. With goals as big as that, Mfusi is setting herself up for remarkable wins as a woman in agriculture.
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