Sustainability is key for SA’s top young farmer

He’s already won the biggest award for young farmers in Mzansi. That doesn’t mean, however, that he has achieved all his goals. In fact, together with his workers, Gerhard Bruwer now wants to farm in more sustainable ways.

“The most important [thing] is to farm sustainably so that one could produce more food for my community and the whole of South Africa,” believes Gerhard Bruwer. He farms in Douglas in the Northern Cape. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

“The most important [thing] is to farm sustainably so that one could produce more food for my community and the whole of South Africa,” believes Gerhard Bruwer. He farms in Douglas in the Northern Cape. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Eskom has become a bit of a swear word for Gerhard Bruwer, the 2021 winner of Toyota and Agri SA’s Young Farmer of the Year award. Despite his success, he admits that his electricity bill, coupled with load shedding has become a major challenge.

“The only way of overcoming this problem is installing big solar energy so that we can be less dependent on Eskom. In the long run, [the power utility] could hurt our business,” he says in an interview with Food For Mzansi.

Bruwer (40) farms on Genade Boerdery in Douglas, about an hour outside Kimberley in the Northern Cape. The diversified family farming operation includes maize, wheat, barley, potatoes, lucerne, pecan nuts, cattle and grapes, among others. Popcorn farming also contributes significantly to his cashflow.

Looking ahead, the dynamic producer is set on farming more sustainably. “The most important [thing] is to farm sustainably so that one could produce more food for my community and the whole of South Africa,” he says.

Gerhard Bruwer, the 2021 winner of Toyota SA and Agri SA’s Young Farmer of the Year award. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Tiisetso Manoko: Let’s start with the big award you won late last year – the biggest of its kind for young farmers in Mzansi. Now that you’ve had some time to reflect on it, what does the award mean to you as a farmer?

Gerhard Bruwer: It remains a great privilege to have received this award as a young farmer in my area, [the Douglas district.] It proves that the sector does appreciate one’s time, hard work and commitment.

[However,] the big thank you will have to go to my farmworkers, who have been working tirelessly. The people that I do business with also contributed to my success. Positive energy and hard work pay off. This award was welcomed by everyone who works close with me and I thank everyone involved.

Farming isn’t easy. What are the biggest challenges you face?

My biggest challenge thus far has been Eskom. The electricity bill is way too much to keep up with it. Most of the equipment used on my farm are electricity-based. It takes a lot of electricity.

As an irrigation farmer I have to use electricity, so Eskom expenses and the continuous power cuts are a big challenge. The only way of overcoming this? We are busy installing big solar energy so that we can be less dependent on Eskom. In the long run [the power utility] could hurt our business,

We also have high input costs. So, for us to overcome it, we buy in bulk. We are three brothers who farm together, so we assist each other in buying whatever we need in bulk. It is easier on the pocket.

What has been your biggest lessons learned since embarking on farming?

One needs to learn from the best and [also] be willing to learn. Farming is a very complex industry. It is not for the faint-hearted. It needs patience and the right mindset [to face all the] challenges [you will] encounter. Working together with other farmers can really help. We learn from one another as farmers, which is something that you can take further in your life.

What does 2022 hold for you?

The most important [thing] is to farm sustainably so that one could produce more food for my community and the whole of South Africa. My primary aim is to play my part in ensuring food security does not become [an area of] concern [in the country.] I also want to do things much bigger and better this year.

Also, I want to embark on long-term, sustainable plans and not just short-term decisions. So, I am going into 2022 with loads of energy and enthusiasm to truly achieve great things.

And your advice to young farmers who are looking up to you?

Farming needs commitment. There are no holidays in this industry. It needs people who are hands-on and willing to work 365 days a year. It also needs people who are resilient as there are several issues that need to be addressed on a daily basis. So, my simple advice would be to enter farming with an open mind and the willingness to work hard.

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