Grain SA’s Farmer of the Year – teamwork is key

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

“This is a family farm, where my father and brother are both involved, and we also have a very strong workforce without whose support it wouldn’t have been possible for me to become the Grain SA Farmer of the Year 2023.”

These humble words were spoken by Western Cape producer, Pieter de Jager, during his acceptance speech at the Grain SA gala dinner. The ceremony honoured the country’s top grain producers in Pretoria on Friday, 20 October 2023.

De Jager joined the family farm in 2003 after completing his master’s degree in Agricultural Management and resides on the farm Wiehmansfontein near Albertinia. From 2010, Pieter began to focus more and more diligently on the grain branch of the business with a focus on improved profitability.

Today, grain makes up approximately 80% of the family’s farming operation, with wool sheep and beef cattle making up the other 20%. From 2003, De Jager systematically switched over to no-tillage and since then conventional tillage has never been applied to their farm again.

“When I was still studying my lecturer told me: ‘If you want to farm with grain your five closest friends must include your chemical agent, your fertiliser agent and your accountant,” De Jager said, adding that many a truth was spoken in jest. “Today I have more than merely those three friends. I also have my tractor friend and my banking friend, and I’ve seen them all here tonight. What I’m trying to say is that it is nearly impossible to farm on your own. You need good, reliable partners. Organisations such as Grain SA are also crucial. Thank you for what you do for producers and the image of producers.”

Read more about the grain knowledge exchange between South Africa and France.

Inspiration Award

This year two inspirational awards were awarded by Grain SA. The recipients were Dr Renée Prins, director of CenGen, and Jack Human (posthumously).

Dr Prins was honoured for her breakthrough research in wheat genetics and Human was honoured for the work he did to establish regenerative agricultural practices in South Africa and the Overberg and Southern Cape in particular.

Read more about the Black Sea grain deal here.

Other top producers also honoured

Derek Mathews, chairperson of Grain SA, said it was important to note that South Africa’s grain producers were not divided along historical lines, but that they were a united sector and that grain production for food security was the main aim of all producers.

To illustrate his point he indicated the high level of production of William Raphoto, this year’s Grain SA/ABSA/John Deere Financial New Era Commercial Farmer of the Year. Mathews admitted that Raphoto’s grain production of the past year was higher than his own.

In the 2022/23 season, Raphoto planted 310ha of white maize with a yield of between 4,5 to 5tonnes/ha. He also planted 100ha of soya bean with a yield of approximately 1,2 tonnes/ha. Other top producers that were honoured on the evening were:

  • Busisiwe Msibi, Grain SA/Absa/John Deere Financial Subsistence Farmer of the Year (1 to 3ha). She hails from Amersfoort in Mpumalanga.
  • Nkosinathi Hadebe, Grain SA/Landbank Smallholder Farmer of the Year (4 to 49ha). He farms near Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Philani Khoza, Grain SA Potential Commercial Farmer of the Year (49ha  – 250 tonne). He farms near Bergville in KwaZulu-Natal. – Susan Marais, Plaas Media

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