The 2018 Young Farmer and New Harvest Awards function was a celebration of positivity. “It is important to win competitions such as these and a joy to drive home in a brand-new Toyota Hilux, but it is far more important to be a positive leader in the agricultural industry,” Dan Kriek, president of Agri SA, told the nine Agri SA/Toyota SA Young Farmer of the Year finalists and the five Toyota SA New Harvest finalists.
Toyota SA has been spearheading the Young Farmer and New Harvest Awards since their inception in 2004 and 2008, respectively, and announced that the contract has been renewed for the next three years. Calvyn Hamman, senior vice president of Sales and Marketing at Toyota SA, encouraged farmers to never stop improving.
“A lot of uncertainty exists, but that is the case across the globe. Stay positive, keep your eye on the future, do what you do best and do not get caught up in political rhetoric; the solutions will come.” He also placed emphasis on the importance of respect and encouraged farmers to grow a culture of respect in their businesses.
Prof Carlu van der Westhuizen, convener of the adjudication panel, reminded those who attended that winners are chosen according to merit only. A lot of focus is placed on strategic business thinking and ingenuity, among many other important attributes. The adjudication team traveled more than 8 000 km across South Africa to visit the finalists on their farms.
After inspiring entertainment by Monique Steyn and Riana Nel, the winners were finally announced. Whernit Dirks of the Bergrivier region in the Western Cape is the Toyota SA New Harvest farmer of 2018. He farms with wheat, pastures, sheep, and barley. JP van den Berg of the Toska region in North West is the 2018 Toyota SA Agri SA Young Farmer of the Year. He farms with seed potatoes, stud and commercial cattle, seed grass, and game. He also runs a chicken abattoir.
“I am so excited,” said Whernit after receiving his award. “This is new inspiration for me, my entire team, my region and other farmers like me. I believe agriculture in South Africa has a bright future and recognition such as this and what I saw from all the other finalist only boosts that belief. I want to encourage everyone in agriculture to stay positive and hang on to their passion for agriculture.”
JP reiterated the message of positivity. “My message to all farmers is to keep their focus and remain positive. This award means so much to me and I want to thank everyone who works hard alongside me to reach our goal.” He also thanked the loyal consumers in South Africa and beyond for buying and enjoying the products produced by South African agriculture. – Marike Brits, AgriOrbit