Combined, Agriculture and Agri-processing exports from the Western Cape amounted to R77 billion during the troubled 2020. The Western Cape also exported 52% of South Africa’s agricultural produce. There’s no denying that Agriculture in the Western Cape is an essential industry, but do we always realise the importance of our contribution? Are we still positive about Agriculture?
We have many challenges – from government’s policy uncertainty, the general stance of the SA economy, violence and crime in rural areas or on farms, to climate change with droughts and unseasonal weather damaging crops. For us in the wine industry, Covid also brought fresh challenges with the ban on liquor for extensive periods of time as well as the pandemic’s destructive effect on tourism – in this instance, our own wine tourism offering.
Can we still be excited about Agriculture? I think so! It is an industry that demands a lot, but I love a challenge. There is the charm of working in the open air, getting your hands dirty, seeing your livestock flourish or your orchards grow, but there is much more to Agriculture than being a farmer.
A farm is an economic unit, a business model and often an entrepreneur’s concern. It creates jobs and is the basis of an important socio-economic model. Agriculture is an essential industry without which we will literally and figuratively not have food on the table.
Agriculture is such a versatile industry:
- It is there for those who physically want to plant the seeds or shear the sheep, but it also offers opportunities for researchers, economists and strategists.
- In a country with a large rural population, agriculture brings opportunities to remote areas.
- And then there is the human element of agriculture. I am all about technology, keeping up with the times and having the best tools for the job to be more efficient and cost effective. But people stay important. Our staff has grown significantly over the last few years as we developed our wine tourism offerings at La Motte and Leopard’s Leap. Only the winemaker and the farm manager still stay on the farm, but our people feel like family. We feel responsible for them and we care for them as part of our family.
Agriculture is about much more than a good harvest. While good growing seasons, record crops and quality harvests are what we all wish for, agriculture is also about having vision and insight. To be a success in Agriculture you have to be well-informed, have an open mind, be very adaptable and have loads of determination – and you have to care.
I recently had the opportunity to address an audience at my alma mater, Boland Landbou. While not all of those students will end up in Agriculture, I realised that their exposure to the industry teaches them responsibility, encourages them to think big, to roll with the punches and most importantly, it gives them the chance to make a difference.