Xoli reflects on the power of excellent marketing

Buhle farmer Nomxoliswa Makhabane (35) is going all-out to ensure that her farming business is a success.

Not only does she put in the hard legwork of farming; she also understands the importance of powerful marketing.

Xoli, as she is known for short, sells her spinach with a label she designed herself, to her local Pick ‘n Pay in Delmas, Mpumalanga. She produced her logo, shown on her label, while developing a business plan during her Vegetable Production course at Buhle in 2021.

“Think of your values and what your message is, then send that message out to the work in the form of a graphic,” she advises other new farmers. “You can express your message so much clearly than anyone else. And doing it yourself makes it fun!

“My logo is associated with everything I produce and motivates people to support my enterprise.”

The two feathers in her logo represent the importance of sharing ideas and how communication has advanced, reminding us how, centuries ago, writing was only possible using a quill pen, although we now use technology to convey our messages.

Elvis Nkosi, the Fresh Produce Manger at the Delmas Pick ‘n Pay, observes that Xoli’s spinach is of such a high quality that it flies off the shelves. “She is also very reliable, and always delivers on time,” he notes.

“We like to support emerging farmers by buying their produce.” 

Plants were given to people by God “to give us life and livelihoods”, notes Xoli. “My focus is on producing fresh, natural foods, so that I can hopefully feed the nation – and the world!

“There is a reason that each of us is here on earth and, to put it in a simple way, my calling is to help others be the best versions of themselves. Farming is a way to give back to society.”

Xoli graduated from our Vegetable Production course in November 2021 – just seven months before this story was written – then began farming on land at a community centre in Delmas, Mpumalanga, where there was a vacant tunnel. She grows Swiss chard in the 10m by 30m structure.

Her business, InkosazanaGro, has three full-time employees and recently began employing another 12 to clear four more hectares of land, which she will plant soon.

She bubbles over with an infectious enthusiasm when she talks about agriculture.

“If you love farming as I do, don’t hesitate – just go for it,” she advises other young people. “However, you should be prepared for some legwork.”

Birds-eye chilli will be her summer crop. “It’s good for health, and there is a shortage in the market, as I discovered through my research when I was training.”

Farming is a multi-faceted career, requiring the willingness to gain many new areas of expertise, notes, Xoli, who is now working to ensure that her production complies with GAP certification. This will enable her to extend her sales by suppling outlets that require the standards of production required for exports.

Her greatest challenge is to find the capital necessary for a larger irrigation system, necessary for extending her area under production. “I know I will find the funding I need,” she says.

Xoli studied psychology at university years ago, then worked as a human resources officer for a construction company. “When Covid-19 struck and I was stuck at home, I became introspective. I came to the realisation I really want others to lead a full life, which starts with healthy food. This gives us the strength and energy to do as much as we can with our time. It makes our minds clear, not foggy, and we become more creative.”

“Now, there is nowhere I’d rather be than farming. If you want to understand and get closer to God, this is the best way.

“Farming brings together my psychological insights, my interest in food, and my interest in the reason for being alive.”

ENDS

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