Farmer’s Inside Track this week features founder of Happy Land Farms owner Robert Patson, who believes the future of agriculture lies in ethical farming.
Patson, a former paratrooper with the British army, made a dramatic career shift after he watched the Academy Award winning documentary, Food Inc.
The shocking revelation of mass food production inspired him to become an ethical farmer and his very own chicken enterprise was born in 2016, in the Johannesburg suburb of Kyalami.
In the video, Patson highlights the pitfalls of climate change, making the exciting shift from agri-processor to agripreneur and the importance of sustaining and solidifying a better future for generations to come. “I see the ethical way being the only way going forward with the news being spread now, helping people realize that they are actually being misled by these inhumane food practices. Their conscience will eventually kick in and it will not be a niche market (anymore),” he says.
The poultry farmer says he was fuelled by a moral obligation to produce ethical food. After winning an award in his poultry group for his farming efforts, he says this was the moment of reassurance. It further inspired him to become more aggressive in the marketing of his produce.
“Once they gave me recognition in my first year, I said okay, I must be onto something good. And from there on I was just propelled to be more aggressive in the market.”
Patson’s motivation stems from his daughter, Thandi. “People are being misled about the nutritional value of food products. I can’t expect my child to eat the type of inhumane practices that are transferred into her food. I just wanted to play my part in ensuring that she and future generations have ethically produced foods,” he affirms.
Like many agriculturalists he has faced several challenges. He, however, cites load shedding as a constant dark cloud that looms over his business. “The biggest obstacle is the lack of energy source which is happening in our industry, especially on the breeding side, your incubators, your death rate is increasing due to the interrupted power supply.”
“Farming is not rocket science,” Patson says. He believes that as long as you are producing high quality products, access to market should not be an issue. The poultry farmer encourages up-and-coming farmers to look into shifting focus towards farming fruits and vegetables.
“There is a growing vegetarian/vegan market, so if people focus on growing fruits and vegetables, they are going to be in a pretty much recession-proof business. Especially where the climate conditions are worse in other countries, but more favourable here in South Africa.”
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