It’s the small things in nature, like the buzz of the bees, the smell of apple blossoms and the earth after heavy rain that make farming fun for the winner of the Toyota and Agri SA New Harvest of Year competition.
“Unbelievable networking opportunities which seemed impossible, the ability to showcase your successes no matter how small you start, the knowledge of others and the platforms and conversations regarding the future of agriculture.” This is what the winner, Sewis van der Horst, from the farm Loufontein near Villiersdorp in the Western Cape thinks of his victory.
He farms with apples (39 ha), pears (12,37 ha) and nectarines (1,27 ha). He feels it is his absolute responsibility to contribute to food security.
“After a year of hard work, it is wonderful to see 78 crates of good quality pears leave the farm,” he says.
Sewis has been farming since the 1st of December 1994 and grew up in an agricultural environment. “I originally came from Ladismith in the Little Karoo where I had the privilege of learning from great farmers. I grew up on a drupe and table grape farm where I spent my youth earning pocket money during school holidays. After agriculture college I started as a junior farm manager.
“During 1996 I learnt how to draw up my first budget and write production reports,” he says. He mentions that farming has always been his passion and that his parents played a large role in his love for farming: “My father had 30 to 50 Boer goats and my mother was an excellent gardener who grew the best vegetables and flowers.”
Sewis also mentions the ability of agriculture to create jobs that change the lives of many people. “Rural towns depend greatly on agriculture and when agriculture is flourishing, the towns and other businesses flourish as well.”
His biggest challenge in farming is the high input costs and the slow return on investment. His advice to other farmers is that, just like in any career, farming should be your passion. “Start early and cultivate your passion, but get a qualification to enable yourself to make the right decisions when it is necessary. Farming is no longer a simple industry, but rather a fullscale business. Make sure that you gain the right experience before you start farming. Nothing beats experience.”