A young Alexandria farmer who turned a rundown farm into a major dairy producer, has scooped a prestigious agricultural award for his hard work and vision.
Tshilidze Matshidzula, fondly known as “Chilli” by his peers, is a 27-year-old black farmer who looks set to do big things in the future.
He recently won the Toyota Young Farmer of the Year award for the Eastern Cape and will go through to the national finals.
Describing the award as “an honour and a privilege”, Matshidzula, who originally hails from Limpopo, says he hopes his achievement will inspire the youth to transform agriculture in South Africa.
“I believe it will go down in history as an inspiration to a lot of kids who are still at school, particularly the ones that went through the same (challenges) that I did.
“There are a lot of kids out there, especially black kids, who carry the perception that farming is more for white people.
“This just shows that if you believe, it’s not a colour thing, it’s all about putting in the effort.”
While the road has not been easy, Matshidzula has worked hard to put the farm he is in charge of, Little Barnet, firmly on the map.
He was the recipient of the Mangold Trophy earlier this year in recognition of the most well-conserved farm in the Bathurst region.
Matshidzula also received the Bathurst Conservation Committee’s other annual prize, that for Most Improved Farm, in 2015 – and with very good reason.
When he arrived at Little Barnet after being identified by farmer Walter Biggs as a promising trainee manager while doing his practical learnership through Tshwane University of Technology, the place was in a bad state.
Under a share-milking scheme, Matshidzula, with the initial assistance of Biggs, has turned the neglected farm, which is situated 3km outside Alexandria, into a thriving success.
There are now 800 cows and Matshidzula is a 40 per cent shareholder. Infrastructure has been repaired and redone, and Little Barnet is almost 100 per cent functional.
The future looks bright for this farmer, who attends Agri Eastern Cape meetings, takes part in farmer study groups and works on his BTech degree in his spare time.
His philosophy is not a difficult one. “Stay humble,” he says, “and work hard.”