A agri writers announce top farmers for 2018
South Africa’s largest apple producer has been named the Agricultural Writers of South Africa’s Farmer of the Year for 2018. At a gala event held in Stellenbosch recently, the award was presented to Pieter Graaff, who farms apples and other fruit in the Witzenberg region near Ceres. Graaff, who produced more than 46 700t of apples in 2018 through his Witzenberg Properties holdings, is also the chairperson of Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing, the largest exporter of South African apples and pears.
Witzenberg Properties consists of six farming units that are situated in four unique climatic zones within the Ceres area, spreading the climate risk of the farming business. Each of the six units are operated independently with its own infrastructure. The businesses’ other farming activities include the cultivation of pears, nectarines, peaches, cherries, wine grapes, vegetables, grain, forestry (as well as a sawmill), cattle, sheep and a Thoroughbred horse stud.
Accepting the award, Graaff, who took over the farming business from his father
Dr Jan Graaff in 1984, said the primary agricultural industry in South Africa was built on the foundation of solid family values.
“Farming is a people business. You rely on the trustworthiness of your staff. “As a farmer you need to take care of the people who work for you and show an interest in every staff member on your farm.
If you show an interest in their well-being, they will show an interest in the well-being of your business,” he said.
According to Graaff, agriculture was not the easy solution to the country’s development and job creation challenges, as was often made out by politicians.
“It takes a long time and a lot of hard work to succeed in agriculture.
‘ farmers need to take care of the people who work for them’
“Farming is not a quick fix for the problems our country faces.”
Other awards presented by the Agricultural Writers of South Africa on the evening were the 2018 New Entrant into Commercial Agriculture, awarded to Leonard Mavhugu, a dairy farmer from the former Ciskei region of the Eastern Cape, and the 2018 Agriculturist of the Year, awarded to agricultural economist Wandile Sihlobo.
Mavhugu is the senior production manager at the transformation dairy business, Amadlelo Agri.
The business runs about 4 000 in-milk cows on 1 100ha and employs about 100 people.
Sihlobo is the head of agribusiness research at Agbiz. He was recently appointed to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s advisory panel to advise and support the inter-ministerial committee on land reform.
The main sponsors of the event were Bayer, Santam Agriculture, Sanlam and Rovic Leers. – Denene Erasmus
BELOW: The Agricultural Writers of South Africa’s award winners for 2018 are (from left): Leonard Mavhugu (New Entrant into Commercial Agriculture), Pieter Graaff (Farmer of the Year), and Wandile Sihlobo (Agriculturist of the Year).