by Grain S.A.

Grain SA's successful farmer development

Award-winning farmer succeeds in adversity

Emerging farmer of the year in 2006, Lazarus and Ruth Mothusi in front of the land they cultivate.
Lazarus and Ruth Mothusi.jpg

Lazarus Mothusi is the head of a remarkable family who all live by the wisdom that says; ‘whatever your hand finds to do, do it well’. This family works hard and enjoys quality time together. Over the past 20 years, they have built an amazing farming enterprise – although they do not own land.

Mothusi was named Grain South Africa’s (GSA) Emerging Farmer of the Year in 2006 and is now a beneficiary of the North West provincial government’s recapitalisation programme.

Situated in the dry and dusty village of Weltevrede in the North West province, the Mothusi farmhouse is an immaculate homestead surrounded by neat and freshly painted palisade fencing that glows yellow in sunshine.

There is always a warm welcome and neatly attired grandchildren play around the farmyard while Mothusi’s wife, Ruth, beavers away in her amazing food garden dripping with goodness for her kitchen where she cooks up a storm every day.

I gasped to see healthy sugar cane growing in her garden – because sugar cane does not grow here – so she proudly cut some to prove that it is real sugar cane.

Mothusi started life as a farmworker and later became a contract welder and boilermaker but, like many others, he always knew in his heart he wanted to farm for himself one day. The difference for Mothusi was that he has made his dreams come true with support from his wife, to whom he is quick to give recognition. He says his wife kept the dream alive and made things happen at home while he had to go away to work to support them.

He says, “Daar is nie eers ‘n lepel wat ek gekoop het sonder haar hulp nie!” (“Not even a spoon has been bought without her help!”)

Mothusi’s son, Job, entered the commercial world for a while, but the love for the land was already deeply instilled and when he saw his father struggling with failing eyesight – probably as a result of too many hours spent welding years before – and he opted to come farming too. Job is a big help, having shouldered the burden of the farming operations – but never without his father nearby.

Mothusi believes his strong aversion to skuld (debt) and his financial discipline has contributed to his success as well as his determination to work hard and get the job done properly.

He has built a diversified farming operation, comprising mainly of maize and sunflowers in rotation and a livestock division with cattle and sheep which run on communal lands. He manages to keep his herd healthy by bringing them into the farmyard in the day and at night to water them well and give them extra feed.

A farmer in a distant village discussing her sheep breeding said she had to buy a new ram from Mothusi “because everyone knows Lazarus has the best flock of sheep in the whole district”.

It is always a big challenge for a livestock farmer to depend on communal grazing and he’d love to have a farm of his own one day.

Lazarus gives recognition to Grain SA’s farmer development programme, which has run study groups for many years. He learnt many good farming practices and how to maintain tractors and implements from their courses. Job also joined a Grain SA study group and he too has attended courses which, he says, he found very helpful.

Jane McPherson, Grain SA’s farmer development programme manager, has always said that farming is “not about owning land but about having access to land”, and then it is up to the farmer “to just do it!”

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