This week’s Farmer’s Inside Track video episode features agronomist Lerato Botha. The 25-year-old is the director of a family run vegetable enterprise, Farmerlee Farms in Tarlton in the Gauteng province.
In the video the herb farmer details the harsh lessons learned in the farming industry; the dynamics of doing business with family, and how knowledge is the key to farming successfully.
“For me going to study agronomy, I was able to learn new ways of farming and combine that with what I know. Practically, I was able to marry my experiences,” she says.
Botha believes the agricultural sector provides ample opportunity to learn.
“People just think you plant and feed people, but you get to learn admin, strategies, and the accounting side of it. There are so many other fields that get incorporated into farming,” she says.
Her father, Jimmy Botha, inspired her to pursue furthering her knowledge of the agricultural industry at the University of the Free State where she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in agricultural sciences in 2019.
Botha’s father built up the farm they currently lease from nothing. “The farm was basically fallow. I have watched him build the farm from 2015 right up until today; that’s been my inspiration and the reason why I am in this industry,” she explains.
The agronomist warns future farmers to always keep one eye open when approaching a new business. Lay solid foundations with people you can trust, she says.
“Relationship building, communication and understanding, those are the things that I feel we lacked in the farm. When we do things, we do them slightly smarter, we read through things and we understand what is required from us.”
Botha says working with family has its ups and downs. “Understanding, mutual respect and communication is key to run a family business and it yields fruitful rewards, she adds.
“My dad and I are very similar, we are at loggerheads a lot but it’s a learning curve we’re really learning. We really enjoy working together. I learn from him because he knows the old school way of doing things and I am coming in with my book knowledge, so that’s where we really get to understand each other.”
She advises up-and-coming farmers to remain resilient despite the challenges. “There are times when I thought things were not going to work out.”
“There are some days when you feel like you just cannot hold on, but just look at the end and remember why you’re doing it. You are doing this because there is a need to feed people in the country.”
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