Growing up on a farm in Kaalpan in North West, Minky Kgopa dreamed of changing the lives of her family for the better. She thought she would accomplish this by entering the corporate world, but farming became her destiny.
Although Kgopa is from a farming family, she never thought she would be a farmer and take over the reigns from her father.
A graduate degree in Bcom informatics from the University of Pretoria, Kgopa worked in Johannesburg for companies like Sun International and Accenture, until she decided to drop it all and go back home to farm.
Owing to her father’s old age, in 2018 Kgopa convinced her father to give her 50 hectares to start farming with sunflowers.
“It all started with my desire to farm haunting me. Every time I went home, I would come back with this increased love for farming that would not go away, I kept brushing it off until I decided to get into it full time and start farming,” she says.
Kgopa applied for FarmSol assistance, and SAB also stepped up to the plate. “Through the mentorship of FarmSol and SAB I have managed to become a supplier to SAB and Siqalo foods. It has not been as easy journey, but it has been rewarding.
“I have been assisted by both SAB and FarmSol through purchasing of inputs, mentoring and an interest free loan for diesel and inputs. Most importantly they buy the grain and made sure I have a good customer base,” she explains.
Raising the bar
“I then decided to take the other 55 hectares – where I am farming with maize – so in total I am farming on 105 hectares of land. I also have a local market in the surrounding areas.”
Kgopa says for someone to start working the land, the love for farming must surpass the love to make money, because farming must be treated like a passion.
“It is just amazing, loving to see things grow and be part of nature. You know when you plant something, and you see it grow is something that I love and cherish. It completes me to see the work of my hands growing.”
According to Kgopa, the biggest challenge that she is currently encountering is the language barrier and being undermined by male counterparts.
“Firstly, the industry that I am into is male dominated, and as a young woman you are always overlooked. For instance, when it is farmer’s day communication will be in Afrikaans, which I do not understand.
“I end up sending my father to the farmer’s information day, but hearing information from a second person is not really the same as getting it first-hand. Because the farm is a family farm, some people will say they want to speak to my father regarding certain things, but not understanding that I am the one who is operating now. I am the person to speak to,” she explains.
Kgopa says despite the challenges, her passion continues to drive her to reach her dreams. “I do not see a lot of women in my space, so I really feel alone and not being able to network properly with fellow women.”
She adds that the price of diesel in the past few months has really had an impact on the financial standings of the operations.
“I try to buy diesel in bulk when the prices are down and store it, but also buying it in bulk means one need to have a very strong pocket, which is not always the case for us commercial farmers.”
Finding strength in others
Kgopa says her father, Joseph, remains her pillar of strength and keeps on advising her on how to better her farming activities.
“Even though he is not actively involved, I still learn a lot from him. He still plays part in advising and guiding me on the business. He has been there for a long time, so I still need his expertise and knowledge.”
Following her attendance at the inaugural Food For Mzansi Indaba a month ago in Johannesburg, Kgopa says she is excited about the future after engaging with the big leaders in the sector.
“I came out of that indaba bumped up with a lot of energy. Sitting in that room with women who have gone through what I am going through and telling you that the sky is the limit, was overwhelming.
“I am more knowledgeable and informed now. I engaged with the likes of John Deere, whom I am planning to meet and discuss issues affecting my business and how they can help. So, the indaba was a blessing for me, I gained a lot of information.”
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