While Happy Letsitsa (47) was working in the financial sector, assisting emerging farmers with loans, it became clear that his heart belonged to the land, and he made the brave decision to switch careers.
Today, he owns a 423-hectare (ha) farm called Nooitgedacht in the Free State, where he puts all the knowledge he learnt from his father – also a farmer – to good use.
He says 300ha of his land is suitable for growing crops, while the remaining 123ha are used for grazing.
Letsitsa studied agricultural management at the University of Pretoria and received formal training from the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The department also helped enable him to plant 220ha of maize and gave him a 220-kilowatt tractor, which he uses to transport grain to the silo, for chemical spraying and general cleaning work.
Letitsa, who has six permanent and 60 seasonal employees, says he received a financial loan from farmer development company FarmSol, which offers support services to emerging and smallholder farmers.
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The backing he has received from government and FarmSol has seen him grow from a developing farmer into a commercial farmer who can offer work experience to agriculture students. The students are part of the department’s exchange programme and were sent to study in Russia, before being placed on farms to gain practical experience.
Letitsa’s plans include purchasing a new planter, a harvester and another tractor.
Help for emerging farmers
Subsistence, smallholder or commercial farmers can apply for training opportunities through the Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
“We also have the Glen Agriculture College – which is an accredited training institution that offers short courses and diploma certificates in crop and animal production,” says Free State Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Director for Communications Zimasa Mbewu.
To find out more about the opportunities offered by the department, visit their website at www.ard.fs.gov.za or call them at 051 861 8509. You can also visit the national department of agriculture’s website at www.dalrrd.gov.za or call them at 012 319 6000.
Written by Ursula Graaff and Ntombi Mhlambi
This article was originally published in the GCIS Vuk’uzenzele.