Matome Cynthia Mokgobu is a true reflection of the saying that hard work pays off. She is a successful farmer in her area and she is counted among best emerging female farmers in Limpopo.
Now at the age of 27, she has tried her hand at planting a wide range of produce on her farm and the experience has been rewarding.
She grew up in Gemarke farm village and, with her love in farming, did an ornamental horticulture qualification through the University of South Africa (Unisa). Today she is the director of two companies, Matome Landscaping Designs and Mosibudi Trading Enterprises.
“I always observed my parents planting veggies, fruit trees, ornamental plants, and fell in love with what they were doing. My siblings and I were taught to water our garden in the mornings and late afternoons. During school recess or holidays, we would go to the farm to weed and harvest different beans, maize and watermelons. In a nutshell, I actually inherited the love for farming from my parents.”
Upon completing her Grade 12, she wanted to enrol for a degree in crop production but unfortunately, her maths grade was not up to standard. She was advised to upgrade but once again she came out with low marks.
“I perused a Unisa brochure and my eyes fell on ornamental horticulture and right from that spot I made a decision to go for it. I registered and when I got the study material, I could see that I loved what I would be studying. It was all familiar in the sense that I grew up loving nature and plants. The programme included farming, ornamental plants and landscaping. This meant more opportunities for me.”
During her first year at university, Matome went to volunteer at the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) in Pretoria where she would gain useful experience.
“I had no rules laid down for me; I would just wake up with excitement and go to volunteer without thinking about payment. What I enjoyed most about the institution is that it had a library with a rich collection of topical publications. I did my research thoroughly with their material which was made available to me.”
After two full years of volunteering at SANBI she did a three-month internship at Garden World in 2015.
“Here I learned about landscaping and it was amazing to start the garden from scratch until the end. Again, seeing different people coming just to see the gardens designed by different landscapers was wow! In 2016, I got another one-year internship at Pebbles Plants in Joburg Cosmo City. Now, this is where I mastered the retail and wholesale business of horticulture.”
With all the knowledge amassed from the university and institutions with which she did volunteer work and internships, she went home armed with adequate skills to start her farming business.
“My produces are butternut, beetroot and spinach but I want my main products to be butternut, cabbage and yellow maize. I sell my produce to members of public, stall owners and some feeding schemes.”
She only has two employees at the moment but she hopes to add more people in the near future.
“My wish is to create jobs for many people, including youths and the future generation. Despite the challenges and hardships that I’m currently facing as a young farmer, I know that it will be worth it one day and I will get the return on investment.”
The biggest challenge she had to deal with was when she moved from planting at home to planting on the farm.
“Getting all the infrastructure together – fence, water pump, irrigation system and production input – was costly for someone who had just started out in business. Remember I had to use my own investment to buy everything so I didn’t have enough capital to buy everything at once. Every job I did at my landscaping I had to save that money until I could get all those things that were needed at the farm. I had to do everything faster as I had just signed a contract to plant and supply cayenne pepper and I seemed to run behind time.”
“Farming is not a get rich quick scheme, you can never plant today and harvest tomorrow. So it requires a lot of perseverance and passion. If farming is not your passion, do not try it. If the rains are late, you work at the farm before dawn until long after dark to get the farm wet, prepare the soil until is ready to plant. Now tell me here, if you have no passion in it, will you stand all that?”
The love for farming keeps Matume going strong: “I know I’m a highly motivated and capable young woman, who is multi-talented as well. More youths should surely delve into farming. Farming is the future; we need to revive our economy through farming.”
Tell us about someone inspiring you know in your community. Why are they inspiring? In what ways have they changed your outlook on life?