This Free State farmer is creating his own opportunities

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Farmsol Youth Ambassador and Free State farmer Mokete Johannes Mofokeng is making great strides through sheer tenacity. In celebration of Youth Month, we feature some of the rising farm stars participating in the FarmSol Youth Ambassador programme. Every Friday, we will introduce you to a different young farmer who has grown their enterprises with the help of the prestigious farmer development programme.

Mokete Johannes Mofokeng was raised to be a self-starter. From a young age, his father, Charles, encouraged him to take command of his future. “You have two hands, you have two legs, you are healthy, and you have a sound mind. Don’t let life throw you around, take charge of your destiny and create your own opportunities.”

To his father, creating opportunities meant being an entrepreneur. He nudged his son towards starting his own business, saying “you will never get far when working for a salary, but when you have your own business, you can do well enough to create opportunities for others.”  

Journey into agriculture

Mofokeng took his father’s advice, but his initial ventures into entrepreneurship were rocky. After school, he went into business as a service provider to the Welkom municipality. He then set up shop as a transportation provider for one of the local mines. Transportation is an expensive business, and he ended up losing more money than he was making.

Things changed for him in 2011, after he saw a government advertisement offering rental land. The offering formed part of the government’s initiative to stimulate the local economy and address unemployment in the region. Mofokeng’s application was successful, and he was granted a 30-year lease for a 389ha farm in Doringpan, Free State.

“I was over the moon. It was the biggest break I could ever wish upon myself,” he says.

He started his farming operation with two pigs, a male and a female. “It probably sounds ridiculous, but I have managed to grow the herd to over 260 pigs, which I sell at the local hostel. I would like to put up some housing to expand my production capacity, but it will not be wise to do so until I have a formal market.”

The FarmSol connection

Mofokeng came into contact with FarmSol after he read an article about a successful farmer who supplied South African Breweries (SAB) with hops. Curious, he called SAB to find out how he could take part in their grower programmes. They connected him to FarmSol.

Free State farmer Mokete Johannes Mofokeng is making great strides through sheer tenacity. Photo: Supplied/Food For Mzansi

To get into the programme, Mofokeng convinced FarmSol’s extension officer, Barry Nel, that the region has growing potential. “Nel, initially, was sceptical about the productive potential of our region, but I sent him lots of climatic and other production data to persuade him. He finally agreed, but only if I could find another couple of farmers to participate in the programme, as it was too far for him to drive to one farmer.”

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Collaboration is an important part of the programme, with Nel coming out to talk to the participating farmers. The farmers themselves also have regular meetings, where they inspire each other and bounce around production ideas.

Nel’s influence in Mofokeng’s farming life is second only to that of his father.

“Nel has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for me. He is so insightful and knowledgeable; I want the Free State Department to adopt him to help other farmers in the province.”

The FarmSol effect

Mofokeng’s journey with FarmSol started in 2016. Besides extension services, FarmSol has also assisted him with inputs to plant non-GMO maize for SAB and sunflowers as rotational crops.

“It was not always smooth sailing as we experienced a terrible drought that first year. So, I saved the seed and fertiliser until the next year, when conditions improved.”

With his harvest profits, he was able to buy a disc harrow, ripper and plough. He is now aiming to buy a sprayer with his next profits, thus fulfilling all his equipment needs.

“I rent a big, nice tractor from FarmSol, but initially had to rent equipment from neighbours. This is not ideal, because grain has such small planting, spraying and harvesting windows. You pay in production volumes for failure to do the right thing at the right time.”

Mofokeng is planning to continue the expansion of his business. He aims to expand his production to 200ha, and over the next three years build a database notarising the historic performance of the farm.

“I have read in an agricultural publication that a farmer needs to plant a thousand hectares to be meaningful. So, I want to use my historic production data to access a loan to lease or buy more farmland to expand my production footprint.”

ALSO READ: ‘You cannot sit all day,’ says award-winning Free State farmer

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