Interviewer: Kitsoyaone GG Phatudi
Position: Sernick Group Graduate Intern
Tell us about yourself as a farmer.
My name is Tracy Masetlaelo Marobobo, I’m a 39-year-old female farmer from Ventersburg and mother to two sons and a daughter. I farm alongside my husband and father. I am a chemical engineer by profession and worked in engineering and consulting services before I left the corporate sector and traded it for farming over 5 years ago. Our main farming operation entails the production of Bonsmara weaned calves for the Sernick feedlot. Other operations include layer hens, a piggery, and sheep.
What influenced your passion for farming?
I grew up with my grandparents who were farm workers and lived on the farms. My dad also always had livestock to support his family. I also had the privilege to look after the livestock part-time; spending holidays on the farm triggered my passion for farming.
How did you experience the farmer’s day and were there any challenges?
It was our very first ever Farmers Day on our farm. We loved every moment of it. The support we received from the Sernick team, Elanco, Dr. Malan, Red Meat Producers Organization, OBP, Aveling Boerdery, and Sernick Tier 3 farmers made it easy to host and ensure that the event was successful. I have learned to respect the big agribusinesses for setting up their own farmers’ day events. Experts go out of their way to ensure that info is embedded in us and we also reach new frontiers. It was so cloudy on the day and I was worried that the farmers will have a hard time reaching the farm due to the bad access road. We thank God that it drizzled and all managed to make it to the farm. The access road is a nightmare during rainy conditions.
What is your take on the Sernick and Jobs Fund emerging farmers initiative and how effective do you think it is?
This is the first-ever support program that ensures us farmers are fully supported in all aspects that are considered to be a pain to smallholder farmers that are trying to commercialize their enterprises. Through this program, I was trained and I am a qualified animal production farmer with a National Qualification Certificate. I created jobs on the farm and managed to pay the employees. I have further received support to install infrastructure for water, kraal, and fencing. The cherry on top is receiving rental Bonsmara cattle whereby I keep the majority of the progenies from the cows. In addition, through the mentorship program and networking with other commercial farmers, I was able to buy my own Bonsmara certified bull and we were able to achieve a 86% calving rate from our own herd. I record properly and vaccinate per guidelines and know that as an enterprise we have grown.
As a female farmer, what are the general challenges you have experienced and how do you get around them?
The farming sector is a male-dominated field and as a female, we have to excel beyond normal benchmarks to ensure that we are heard or qualify as a good farmer. However, recently I have learned that we as females in the industry are more patient, eager to learn and we connect easily with the livestock and any other crops growing in our field. So young female aspirant farmers should not be shaken by the masculine opposite gender. Know who you are and capitalize on it. Be present outside your farm and be active in farming study groups or around your local municipality. You will learn more from other women in the field. Lastly, some men are sometimes dismissive of the opposite sex when it comes to decision-making or farming-related business practices. Do not fear, we are not called imbokodo for nothing; soldier on and continue to produce and feed the nation.
How do you think the use of technology can assist in improving farming practices in general?
Farming practice information is now available globally via the touch of our gadgets. New technological implements such as drones and other irrigation systems amongst others also improve our production. The sooner we try to standardize our farming practices based on technology to those of the world, the sooner we will have improved produce and also improved agricultural quality.
You are a farmer that produces different livestock animals, how do you sharpen your skills and how do you keep up to date with any method which can improve your farming practice?
You can never be too skilled. I always consult and learn from those who have been there before; like my dad. I take my mentors, commercial farmers in my network and the information they provide very seriously. Sernick is also the Moses for this generation. I ensure that I read information, go to other farmers and learn from them. I still learn on the job. I am present all the time. You can never be perfect but continue to learn.
What can you say to aspirant female farmers that are out there?
Farming is not a get-rich-quick scheme. You reap what you sow. Invest in your preparation time, cash flow, look for the market, have systems to ensure that quality is not compromised in your absentia. Be part of other farming study groups or communities. Know what is happening in and around the world. Be active and visible. As a female, we are blessed with the ability to multi-task, nurturing and once you see and understand the process then it is easy to just carry it forth. You do not have to put on overalls all the time. Dress up when you are with your peers, put on your make-up, and be smart all you want. Don’t live up to the myth that farmers are old and not stylish. We are here, young inspired beautiful, and alive. There are great women who are already farming, follow them and continue to be inspired. Lastly, keep your spiritual life intact at all times because all provision is from God. It’s our duty to take care of His creation.
Thank you to the following people and companies for their part in hosting a successful farmers day:
Mrs. Marobobo and family – Hosts
Mr. Patrick Sekwatlakwatla – Chief organiser of the farmers day from Sernick Group
Dr. Faffa Malan – Speaker – Cattle and Small Stock biosecurity
Mr. Willem Kleyn – Who demonstrated practical tips for profitable farming
MPO and RPO – Gerald Schutter and Ezekiel Matlamela
OBP Vaccines – Dr. Sello Maboe – Presented on Brucellosis
Mr. Martins Aveiling – Presented on Dehorning of cows
Tier 3 Farmers