Midlands woman helps farmers’ dreams come true

2012-07-11 00:00

MIDLANDS farmer Judy Stuart (61) has helped youngsters who have no money to further their education realise their agricultural and farming dreams.

“Ma’am Judy Stuart believed in me when others looked down on me. She’s an amazing woman,” said Siyabonga Majozi (23), of Imbali.

Majozi is one of the emerging farmers participating in Future Farmers, Stuart’s project that provides help for youngsters in agriculture to become commercial farmers.

She is the finalist in 2012 Shoprite Checkers Women of the Year Awards, in the Socio-Economic Business Developers category.

Through the programme, about 40 young people, some of whom are orphans from impoverished backgrounds, have been trained since the project’s inception seven years ago.

Majozi’s family could not afford university fees. It was the same story for Mfundo Nyanisa, another promising farmer.

After completing matric, Majozi found it hard to enter the farming industry until he spoke to Stuart.

“I remember my aunt would hand me various job application forms from government departments … but I wasn’t prepared to work for any department because I love farming.”

Majozi is an apprentice at a dairy farm in Curry’s Post and is headed to California in November for a one-year internship.

Meanwhile, two other apprentices are in the United States and four in Australia through sponsorships.

“I started working with farmers in the Qwa-Qwa area. But 25 years ago farming conditions were uneconomical for black farmers,” said Stuart.

“I was involved with the youth at the Royal Show, and saw there were lots of black kids showing cattle.”

Then she realised that a lot of them had nowhere to go after finishing school because of lack of resources.

“As South Africans we don’t really appreciate the calibre of young people that are there on the streets.

“We don’t realise how good they are and we’re wasting them because we’re not giving them opportunities.”

Former apprentice Mzwandile Duma is now manager at a farm in Ixopo.

Duma (24) met Stuart when he was doing Grade 9, at the Royal Show, and doors have been opened ever since.

Raised by unemployed parents and the eldest of nine children, he can now provide for his family. His next giant step is to buy a farm.

“Future Farmers is about finding future farm managers and farmers and not labourers,” Stuart added.

Stuart gave up her farming career to dedicate her time to mentoring her “boys”, as she calls them.

Training includes driving tractors, controlling irrigation systems, operating milking machines, dairy herd management and basic accounting.

Stuart is always looking for farmers who can take youngsters, including girls, on board for apprenticeships.

The 2012 Shoprite Checkers Women of the Year winners will be awarded R100 000 towards their work.

Stuart said if she wins, she will send more “boys” overseas.

• gabisile.ngcobo@witness.co.za

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