There’s a reason why Sophy Musabeni stands out as a shining example of Gauteng’s finest producers. This nurse-turned-farmer has found a clever way to outsmart climate change, enabling her to reap bountiful harvests even in the face of adverse weather conditions.
Farming in the harsh climate conditions of Gauteng, especially in winter, requires strategic vision and agricultural knowledge. But Musabeni knows what she’s doing. In the fresh produce streets of Gauteng, her name is associated with quality and consistency.
Her company Vhegies Pty consists of a 100-hectare farm in Limpopo and a 15-hectare farm in Boksburg, Gauteng, where she produces green beans, butternut, and spinach.
Between the two provinces, she has figured out a strategic way of working around different climate conditions. In summer, Joburg has the perfect climate for her frost-unfriendly crops, but when winter comes, production resumes in Venda.
“I am very busy, I don’t have much time because I am very hands-on with my farm,” she tells Food For Mzansi.
Between two farms
She leased 15 hectares of land in 2007. Musabeni resigned from Mediclinic Medforum Hospital in Pretoria in 2019 where she worked for 10 years.
After resigning, she has been able to produce vegetables for different markets like the Johannesburg market, Springs market, Tshwane market, Spar, Meat Choices, Roots butchery, and other different processing companies.
“Johannesburg is my main farm, but I use the space in Limpopo because of climate change. During winter, Gauteng has frost, leading to a shortage of vegetables. And in Venda, it is warmer with no frost and the vegetables can survive better,” she explains.
Dividing herself between the two provinces was not easy at first, she admits. As a start-up farmer, Musabeni did not have sufficient machinery, transport, and funds to cover input costs for both farms. Everything was expensive.
But her resilient spirit has always gotten her through challenging times. Although it was difficult, Musabeni slowly became the most consistent producer supplying to the Johannesburg market in 2019 and 2020. For this, she was recognised as the top Gauteng producer by agriculture minister Thoko Didiza.
Recently, Gauteng MEC for social development, agriculture, and rural development Mbali Hlope also handed over a cold room facility and tractor to Musabeni.
Making the right decisions
As a nurse at heart, Musabeni does not regret her decision to pursue agricultural aspirations. She’s still looking after the health of South Africans just in a different way – with her produce.
With a true nurse’s spirit at her core, Musabeni wholeheartedly embraces her agricultural dreams. Instead of nursing South Africans back to health, she is now supporting their recovery with healthy vegetables.
“I get so happy when people go to the shop and they send me pictures of my produce. I am very proud of myself for feeding the country and I want to show other youth that they must take agriculture seriously so that we don’t have hunger in this country,” Musabeni says.
Getting here has not been easy.
“The journey has not been easy because I did not have machinery. Because I was working between two provinces, it was very difficult because I did not have a truck to transport the product, so I had to hire one to do so successfully.”
“It was very expensive. I also didn’t have tractors and I depended on them, but they we charging R500 per hour and I used them between Limpopo and Johannesburg.”
Musabeni credits government officials who noticed her potential and gave her a lending hand.
The future is bright
But the journey is still long for Musabeni. She has a processing company up her sleeve and her eyes set on a 300-hectare farm with ideas of how she will manage the farm.
“I want to process foods that we black people eat, like dried vegetables. So, they must be processed and made available to them in the local markets.”
As Musabeni ascends the agricultural ranks of achievement, ensuring the production of nutritious food will forever remain an integral aspect of her enterprise. “We must eat properly so that we don’t get sick. A healthy mind leads to good production, that is why I want to produce food in numbers.”
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