“I like the fact that I can give other people jobs and put food on their tables.”

Kopano Matseoane (36) wishes she had started farming much earlier, instead of working at her previous jobs in IT and as a business analyst, as she could have advanced even further by now.

“Farming is a lot of work but it’s interesting, and it’s liberating to be your own boss,” says the owner of Kopanomatseoane Holdings.

“I like the fact that I can give other people jobs and put food on their tables. I have a lot of responsibility but I am realising how much strength I have – and farming has given me peace of mind.”

Kopano studied Vegetable Production at Buhle in 2021 and less than a year later, at the time of this interview, had already created one permanent and three temporary jobs on her farm, where she grows saffron, spinach, onions, beetroot, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, rape, Swiss chard, cabbage and rape on one hectare.

Funding from Sodexo, provided in a partnership with Buhle, enabled her to build a second reservoir, hire a tractor, buy seedlings and pay her labourers. A Buhle farmer support officer visits her regularly, growing her farm through solutions and keeping her accountable. “He is always motivating me. The funding and farmer support have made a huge difference.

“The biggest obstacle for me used to be funding. Another was rain damage to my vegetables. For a while, it killed my spirit, but I have bounced back.”

Kopano has created her own market, delivering her vegetables to personal clients. She loves cooking, and when she learnt that saffron is “the most expensive spice ever”, she researched how to grow it. “My saffron plants are still growing, but they are my little babies,” she says, laughing. “I would love to be the first black woman in South Africa to produce this spice. You have to diarise every part of the journey, and get every step right.”

Kopano is pregnant with her first child, and the need to provide is driving her to work harder. “I am aiming to make a profit this year, to repay my mom for a loan, to pay my labourers and to make a living for myself. On just one hectare, you can make a living, and within three years I will be doing well.”

Young farmers, and female farmers especially, often lack access to land. Rather than let this deter her, she saw an opportunity to turn a profit on an unutilised plot. She is farming on her dad’s friend’s land, which she hopes in future to buy.

Buhle is a “peaceful school, where the teachers interact well,” she says. “I was a very happy student; If I could, I would live at Buhle! When anybody I know wants to attend a farming school, I suggest Buhle to them.”

“If you’re ready to take on the workload, just go ahead and do it! It’s the way to go. The price of everything is increasing, but people still need to eat, so with farming you will always be busy.

“South Africa imports sunflower oil from Ukraine and Russia. Why don’t we produce more of it ourselves? This is just one way in which we are sitting on gold.”

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