All Aboard Harvest | Jada: A South African synopsis
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Jada: A South African synopsis

Jada: A South African synopsis

Josh, Charles and Carin

Jozua Van Tonder (Joshua), Carin Bulgin, and Charles Vorster.

Below is an interview I did with our workers from South Africa. Charles has been working for Hoffman Harvesting for the past six years and Josh has worked for us for 4 harvest seasons. Carin, who is also Leon’s sister, has been here for two harvest seasons.

What first prompted you to come here?

Charles: I wanted to see America and knew custom harvesting would allow me to see a lot of the countryside.

Jozua: I saw advertisements in the newspaper about custom harvesting. It made me excited to see how America does farming. I enjoy learning about farming here and comparing it with how we do things back home.

Carin: I was interested to see America. There are so many opportunities this country has to offer.

When you first came here what were your expectations of farming/ harvesting in America?

Our expectations of America were very different than everything anticipated. Everything is bigger here. At home most of the equipment is much older— around 50 years old. Here the equipment we run is new and the technology is further ahead than anything back home. At home there are still places where people get paid to pick crops, such as carrots, by hand. There are farmers who do irrigation, but it is very expensive as there is a water shortage in South Africa. As a result, farmers pay for the water they use for irrigation and it is very expensive.

Is it better to be a farmer in America or South Africa

It is better to be a farmer in America. The prices of crops in South Africa are high and they stay high, but being a farmer in South Africa is impossible to do unless the land was inherited. Most farms are passed down by generations and if land isn’t, the government gives it to the blacks for free to start a farm. Unfortunately, they do not have the skills to farm and the land remains unused. There is also a problem in some areas where white farmers are being forced off their land by violence and oftentimes killed for their land.

What crops does South Africa plant and which animals are produced there.

Cattle and sheep as well as wild game used for hunting are the most commonly raised animals. Many farmers also put their land up for hunting because they can make good money having people from other countries hunt on their land.

The Durban area grows sugar cane and bananas.

The Free State has very fertile land, when it is being used, and focuses primarily on corn.

Capetown has the most fertile land and produces several different crops. They grow winter and summer wheat, coffee, tea, olives and grapes which are used for wine. The Cape area has several wineries.

Why do you continue to work here each harvest season?

We keep coming back because we enjoy the work and the people we work with each year. Over the past year’s we have built a family here. The unemployment rate is 40 percent is South Africa. With the bad economy, there is no work for younger people. We need to make money to have a living and pay for our expenses. Coming to America enables us to do that. With the exchange rate of approximately 8-10 South African rand to 1 American dollar, the money goes a long way. It is also a lot safer here. At home, most houses have large fences around them and security systems; here you don’t have to even lock your homes or vehicles.

What do you do at home when you get back from harvest?

Jozua: I haul cattle and corn because the area I am from is a big cattle producing area.They call where I am from “Little Texas” because we have so many cattle.

Charles: I play around and visit my uncle’s farm where I often help him work alfalfa bales. My community is a big sheep producing area.

Carin: I also play around and help my father with his trucking business.

Jada Bulgin can be reached at jada@allaboardharvest.com. All Aboard 2009 Wheat Harvest is sponsored by High Plains Journal and DuPont Crop Protection.

 

1Comment
  • boetboer
    Posted at 22:44h, 14 August

    Although some of the information in these interviews is correct, a lot of the statements made about South Africa isn't accurate. The comment about land being given "to blacks for free" is an unfounded generalisation. There are cases of land redistribution (of land bought by the state and paid for), and many of them are indeed unsuccessful, but this is much too harshly said. Also, Cape Town is a city, not a farming area. The Western Cape is the province that produces (among other things) cereal crops, sheep, fruit and grapes/wine. The statement about equipment being 50 years old is hopefully an attempt at a joke, because it is quite far from the truth. We use GPS mapping and guidance systems, variable rate applications, etc. Yes, there is lots of manual labour, but that is because labour is relatively cheap here.

    If you're willing to start at the bottom, work with your neighbours and work hard, and start out farming on land that you don't own, it's possible to start farming here. Of course it's easier with inherited land, but it's certainly not the only way to do it.