Nick Serfontein was born in 1948 on the farm Liebenbergstroom near Edenville in the Free State where Sernick’s farm operations are now located. He matriculated in 1966 from the Edenville High School as part of a class that consisted of only eight learners. His family had a mixed farming operation and Nick grew up with a keen interest and love for cultivating the soil and rearing animals. He very much wanted to farm but was deterred by his parents who knew from experience that farming was a hard life. Ultimately, they convinced him that there was no future in staying on Liebenbergstroom and he left to study engineering at the University of Pretoria after finishing school. He completed his studies in 1970 and started working at Sapekoe Tea Estates as Chief Engineer, responsible for the planning, design and construction of dams, irrigation schemes and tea processing factories.
After five years, he left Sapekoe Tea Estates and started working at Norse Construction until 1977. He then joined Eksteen, Van Der Walt & Nissen, an engineering firm in Mafikeng as consulting engineer and in 1978, after only six months of being appointed, he became a director at Eksteen, Van Der Walt & Nissen. Serfontein finally found himself in a position where he could pursue his passion for farming while still working, and in 1983 he bought a 250ha piece of land, 30 commercial Bonsmara heifers and started his Bonsmara stud. This was the realisation of a lifelong dream and the start of what would one day become the Sernick Group. The name Sernick is the merging of SER from the surname Serfontein and his name NICK. In 1991 he co-founded EVN Consulting Engineers which was restructured to become the Bigen Africa Group in 1999 of which he was appointed Chairman.
In 1990 Nick decided that cattle farming alone was not enough – he felt compelled to do something that added value to the farm, the community and made farming more cost-effective. During the next 10 years, he acquired more land, including the family farm and expanded the stud. He went on to add the Phase C bull testing station, a feed factory, feedlot and bought the Kroonstad abattoir. Serfontein spent 20 years dividing his time between the farm and his engineering firm. In 2003 he retired from Bigen Africa to devote all his time to Sernick. During this 20-year period, the stud was reduced numerous times to finance the value chain. In 2010 the value chain was completed with Sernick’s entry into the retail market. Today the Sernick Group consists of an integrated value chain producing Bonsmara cattle, a feedlot, feed factory, abattoir, meat processing plant and retail butcheries. The Sernick Group currently employs ±550 people and has a yearly turnover of R1.2 billion. During 2016 Serfontein received the following achievements: LNR herd of the year, Free State Farmer of The Year and Mentor of The Year. In 2018 he also received an accolade as Beeld’s newsmaker of the year after his open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa went viral.
Nick believes that everything he has achieved through the years can be ascribed to his faith, the belief that dreams can come true and his decision to surround himself with like-minded and dynamic individuals that are passionate about agriculture. In July 2018 he wrote an open letter to the President regarding the matter of land reform. In his letter, he urged the President to include commercial farmers in land reform. He believes that the only way to establish successful black commercial farmers in South Africa is by selecting those with an ability to farm and by giving them training, access to finance and mentorship .
Nick currently serves on the Advisory Panel on Land Reform along with nine other members appointed by the President.