The sound of hooves on Karoo stone and dust will be etched in the minds of those who recently celebrated the joy and ethos of South Africa’s unique agricultural heritage during the 2017 Karoo Ranching film festival. The festival took place from 14 to 18 June and is the first of its kind in South Africa.

Julie Truter enjoying a light moment over lunchtime.

The term “Karoo Ranching” represents a positive image of agriculture and a celebration of what treasuring the land is all about. It is the brainchild of Julie Truter who traverses between Johannesburg and the working family farm, Elandskloof, situated in the mountains between Middelburg and Graaff-Reinet.

Julie and Lindy Truter, daughters of Jimmy and Dicky Truter, brought together a diverse group of people for the Karoo Ranching film festival thanks to an exciting vision, sheer determination and a hint of stubbornness. This group included agricultural students from Grootfontein, farmers, film makers, videographers, photographers, role-players in the SA Mohair industry, models and the Plaas Publishing media team, Susan Steyn, Carin Venter and Izak Hofmeyr.

Inspiring the next generation

“I came to a point in my life where I realised that we won’t be around forever, and each of us have a responsibility to do something positive that can, hopefully, be continued by others,” Julie describes the reason for the festival.

Izak Hofmeyr of Plaas Publishing shares a lighter moment with three students of the Grootfontein Agricultural College. From left are Mlibo Qotoyi, Khanyisa Tshuni and Loyiso Swartbooi. Photo: Lizelle Lötter

Her dream is to portray agriculture in South Africa in a positive and edgy manner that will balance out the pressure of the current uncertain economic and political climate. “The country and its agricultural industry finds itself in an unbelievably difficult position. We have just experienced one of the worst droughts on record, the average age of a South African farmer is 60, and very few young people come back to farm. One of Karoo Ranching’s goals is to inspire young farmers and to remind them about all the reasons why people farm.”

“Thanks to the extraordinary individuals who attended the festival, we had an unbelievable film festival on Elandskloof. What we saw here, was enthusiasm for our agricultural sector. The festival was a humbling experience, beautiful in every single aspect.”

Looking at it from both sides

During the five days of the festival, participants worked on either a short story, commercial or documentary, with the option to tweak it in whichever way they wanted to. The products of the 2017 will be showcased during the 2018 Karoo Ranching film festival. The shoot locations included a cattle drive under the big Karoo sky, roping and branding cattle in the kraal, visiting the lookout point with a 360° view of the landscape, sunset scenes complete with a campfire and a set in the tack room.

An early morning shoot at the lookout point, waiting for sunrise.

Among the guests was Mohair South Africa who managed a fashion shoot with the photographer David Dettmann. Outfits such as a mohair and silk organza embroidered gown by Jason Kieck, was modelled on various locations on the farm, as well as on horseback. The television programme, 50/50, also sent two presenters and producers, Hermien Roelvert and Bertus Louw (“Mopkop”) to document the festival.

 From the horse’s mouth

JC Schoeman knows horses and cattle ranching inside out.

JC Schoeman, a farmer from Alexandria demonstrated some cattle work during the festival, showing how the cowboys of old did it.  After completing school, JC travelled to the USA to learn riding skills and rounding up livestock.

“I learned to do it slowly and properly, not crudely like in some movies. It takes a lot of skill, but is fun to do. I farm on a small piece of land, where I can do most of the work by myself, like going into the veld to medicate a sick animal.”

JC runs a programme where he teaches youngsters and people who work on farms how to ride a horse, work with the rope and a dog to lighten the work with sheep and cattle on a farm. He also shows them how to train horses. “It also gives farming a ‘cool’ image, where it’s fun to go out on horseback to work.”

Portraying the farming lifestyle

Making saddles, reigns, etc. from leather, Johan Faber tries his hand at roping an Angus heifer in the kraal.

Johan Faber is a 30-year-old farmer from the Klipfontein area, between Cookhouse and Cradock. “I am involved with the film festival to be part of something that focuses on the positive side of farming. For me there is nothing better than getting up in the mornings with a set of specific goals. It is a lifestyle and a passion which one should appreciate. We really enjoyed working on horseback with the cattle and roping – that is how it really should be done.”

Sheepdogs are his life and passion and he admires their intelligence, especially when working with sheep. “We don’t always realise how clever sheepdogs are, and what they can contribute to farming.” Johan also does leather work, mostly in the evenings. “I like to share my knowledge, and have been teaching some workers this skill. It is an art form that we don’t see much anymore.”

Learning the ropes

Greg Bradfield is a weekend farmer, and knows how to sit on a horse.

Greg Bradfield is also involved with Karoo Ranching. “I farm part-time with Brangus cattle on a small farm near Grahamstown. My heart is in farming and I’m on the farm every weekend.” He believes he was born a century too late, as he would have loved to farm like his grandfather did – with wagons and on horseback.

“I learned roping and horsework skills from JC, so now I also work on horseback, and try to keep our cattle calm when working with it. The festival week has been very special to all of us. It included old and young, men and women, all of whom enjoy the farm life. We love this country and all that goes with farming. I treasure learning new things, also being around people, especially older people from whom we can learn a lot.”

Sharing some thoughts after the festival, Bertus Louw of 50/50 said that it was a privilege to spend a couple of days in the Karoo, enjoying the beautiful spaces and unsoiled starry nights, and seeing how important conservation is in the agricultural sector.

“The people on Elandskloof farm with nature. They look after their veld, and have learned some lessons that must be carried over to generations to come. It’s been an inspiring couple of days, learning why things are being done the way they do it here,” added his colleague, Hermien Roelvert.

 A message from Plaas Publishing

The team of 50/50 conducting an interview with Julie Truter and Loyiso Swartbooi, ‘n student at the Grootfontein Agricultural College. Plaas Publishing supplied media vehicles during the festival. Photo: Lizelle Lötter

“There are a very simple few reasons why it is such an honour for Plaas Publishing to support and be involved as media sponsor in the Karoo Ranching initiative of Julie Truter. It starts with a shared vision of making agriculture great again,” commented Izak Hofmeyr, senior journalist at Plaas Publishing.

“Agriculture needs enthusiastic farmers, and we know that the average age of our farmer population has been steadily increasing as fewer and fewer young candidates enter the industry. It is therefore critical that farming, as a profession, should be placed right up there with the rest of them as a viable alternative when choosing a career.”

Another aspect Plaas Publishing shares with the Karoo Ranching initiative is to portray farming as a ‘sexy’ endeavour to city folk. “The image of farming should be one of a modern, progressive, compassionate, environmentally sensitive and responsible occupation that offers tremendous rewards despite the hard work, stresses and whims of nature. Farmers should be envied!”

A third point of synergy between Plaas Publishing and Karoo Ranching is the notion that a farm is much more than just a production plant. It could be utilised to create a separate income stream through activities not strictly related to farming. “Agri-tourism immediately springs to mind, but we agree with Julie that there are even more options. Her corporate team building events, coupled with the marketing of the farm as a possible movie set at a fraction of the price elsewhere in the world, therefore resonates with us.”

“Whereas the experience of the Karoo Ranching film festival is one that brings back memories of ‘the olden days’ and the way our grandfathers used to farm, our focus is on the balance that farming as a career and lucrative industry offers,” says Lynette Louw, chief editor of Plaas Publishing. “As a media house focused on delivering the best technical content in agriculture, we know that farming is a modern endeavour which is perhaps more technologically advanced than numerous other industries, yet it is an endeavour aimed at preserving the land and simply loving it. It has a softer side, so to speak, but one that lies at its foundation and if lacking, will lead to the demise of the industry.

“Farmers farm because of a passion for the land, their livestock and their produce. Farming enables one to exercise a career in which you enjoy all the benefits of modern technology, while at the same time remaining in touch with the land by driving cattle on horseback, getting your hands dirty or simply riding out to check on the condition of your veld and enjoy its beauty. It is about stewardship and living with the land – not merely on it.” – Carin Venter, Stockfarm

For more information on the film festival and any of the parties involved visit