18 November 2023
The beautiful venue, Landtscap in the Stellenbosch Winelands set the scene for an outstanding event when it hosted the 2023 Agricultural Writers SA Awards on 17 November 2023. The breath-taking view could however not outshine the excellence celebrated at this event.
The awards pay homage to distinction in agriculture as it recognises top agricultural role-players that invest their energy towards promoting sustainable farming enterprises, elevating food security, supporting rural economies, and nurturing the image of agriculture in South Africa. It also recognises excellence in agricultural journalism writing among the members of Agricultural Writers SA (AWSA).
Excellence in Agriculture
The AWSA awards celebrates provincial candidates in the three competition categories and, at the prestigious awards function, announces national winners in each of these categories.
Dewald te Water from Bethal was announced as the 2023 AWSA National Farmer of the year. He was joined on stage by Sophy Musabeni as the 2023 New Entrant to Agriculture and Dr Dirk Troskie as 2023 Agriculturist of the Year.
“For me agriculture equals grace and gratitude,” Te Water’s said as he accepted the award. He expressed his gratitude to his family for understanding his passion for agriculture, to his entire team for his hard work and to his Heavenly Father for abundant grace.”
Since that first Agricultural Writers SA awards ceremony in 1977, the event has contributed to showcasing farmers, the role of agricultural services and later also the importance of new entrants to commercial farming. “We are proud to still recognise the important role of the agricultural sector and to acknowledge excellence in the industry,” said Liza Bohlmann, Chairperson of Agricultural Writers SA.
“During the ceremony we not only celebrate the achievements and ambassador’s role of the award recipients, but also everyone else in the business who contribute to protecting South Africa’s agricultural industry as a beacon of hope. We are therefore also elated by the level of entries into our various member competitions. Members of the agricultural media commit themselves daily to convey the facts and stories of agriculture with their audiences. The more people understand how wonderful and important agriculture is, the better for garnering support for the industry. Congratulations and well done to each of the competition winners and award recipients.”
The 2023 awards function was sponsored by Santam Agriculture as Platinum sponsor and FNB as Diamond sponsor. The Bronze sponsors are Syngenta and CropLife South Africa “With immense pride and excitement, we commemorate the 42nd annual Agricultural Writers SA Awards. Santam is honoured to play a pivotal role in bringing this event to life,” said Daniel Stevens, Head: Santam Agriculture – Crop Insurance.
“Our partnership with Agricultural Writers SA for this event has great significance as the AWSA awards remain steadfast in their commitment to upholding and elevating the importance of both quality agricultural journalism and sustainability in agriculture.”
“As Santam, we are particularly grateful for the opportunity to support this event and maintain a longstanding relationship with the organization. In agriculture, the role of insurance cannot be overstated. Santam firmly believes that insurance is not merely a protective measure but, more importantly, a collaborative partnership between the client and the insurer, with effective risk management at its core. Understanding the challenges faced by farmers, Santam stands as a dependable partner in safeguarding their hard-earned work. We deeply appreciate the immense contribution of our farmers to the South African economy. Their dedication and commitment to sustainable practices form the bedrock of our nation’s success.”
Dawie Maree, Head: Information and Marketing at FNB Agriculture, added that FNB Agriculture is proud to be involved in the Agricultural Writers SA’s annual national awards event. “The Farmer, New Entrant to Commercial Agriculture and Agriculturist of the Year awards are some of the longest running agricultural awards in the country and representative of all industries in the sector. It must be mentioned that this is not a competition, but rather awards for excellence in agriculture. One can just look at previous winners to see the excellence of the farmers and agriculturists who received this award in the past.”
“The aim of awards in agriculture should be to improve the industry. There will be no advantage if our fellow farmers cannot learn something from the winners, and knowing our successful farmers, they are always willing to share information because they know they cannot be successful if the industry is not growing and successful. Successful farming these days are closely linked to sustainable use of natural resources, risk mitigation, diversification and sound financial decision making. It is also here were the importance of our agricultural journalists and publications come to the fore. Obviously not all farmers can visit the winners of awards across the country. Our journalists therefore have the task here to write the stories and give the facts to their readers. By doing that they not only disseminate valuable information and facts, but they also help build the image of the agricultural industry in the eye of the public,” Maree added.
“Hats off to the award winners in the agricultural industry over the past year. And compliments to the publications and journalists who carry these success stories. FNB, as an award-winning financial institution itself, are proud to be part of agriculture and to be associated with fellow award winners.”
The event was guided by the formidable Martelize Brink as master of ceremonies with Premier of the Western Cape, Alan Winde, as keynote speaker. Winde celebrated the agricultural community as heroes of the economy and thanked both agricultural role-players and the media who tell their stories for what they do for South Africa. “Everyone in business knows that there are many risks, in agriculture there is an extensive list of industry-specific risks added on top of those typical business risks. Thank you for taking on these risks every day.”
Excellence in Agricultural Journalism
An important purpose of the AWSA is to celebrate excellence in agricultural journalism. Several competitions, supported by valuable sponsors, are hosted to recognise quality journalism and other media activities across all media types.
One of the highlights is the FNB Communicator of the year competition. Through this competition FNB wishes to highlight the importance of quality agricultural journalism in South Africa. “With this award we would like to honour the efforts of members of the Agricultural Writers SA who excel at communicating important and riveting information about the agricultural sector. Although the audience may be the primary agricultural sector, related industries in the sector or the value chain is equally important,” Maree explained.
Journalists can enter in three categories. The winner in each category will receive a cash prize.
The 2023 winners in the categories were:
- Print: Magda du Toit
- Digital: Mbali Nwako
- Broadcast: Ronelle Louwrens
The CropLife South Africa article awards aims to reward responsible reporting on specifically crop protection and plant biotechnology topics. Elriza Theron of CropLife South Africa emphasises that responsible communication about these technologies is our collective duty. “Our farmers need access to the necessary tools to produce enough food in the face of various challenges, and we must work together to ensure these tools are produced, used, and communicated about responsibly. The media has a critical role to play in informing people about this responsibility.”
The winners of the respective categories are:
CropLife SA Crop Protection Article Award: Magda du Toit
CropLife SA Biotechnology Article Award: Engela Duvenhage
The BKB Photo Competition aims to reward excellence in agricultural photography. A field with often difficult subjects to photograph. The emphasis of the competition if on the communication value of photos and the photographic skill and versatilittyy of the photographer, BKB has been the sponsor of this competition for more than 23 years.
The spoils went to:
Agricultural Photographer of the Year: Dewald Kirsten
Agricultural Photo of the Year: Dewald Kirsten
Issued on behalf of the Agricultural Writers SA
More about our nominees
The candidates were:
Gauteng New Entrant to Commercial Farming and the national award recipient – Sophy Musabeni Litshani
Sophy started farming by planting spinach in her mother’s backyard when she was just a little girl. She always wanted to be a farmer. However, after school her life turned in another direction – she qualified to become a professional nurse and worked for the Mediclinic group for a couple of years.
But eventually, she left the profession to follow her dreams and after three years of struggling to get finances in place she finally managed to secure a 14ha plot in Mapleton close to Vosloorus on the East Rand in Gauteng. The land was not cultivated for years and was totally overgrown with weeds but with hard work and determination, she was able to reap her first harvest in 2020.
Sophy is not only an enthusiastic farmer but also a front liner in the battle against Covid-19 with a great interest in health care and nutrition, and therefore her decision to grow vegetables.
She reverted to her roots and started her farming operations by planting Swiss Chard spinach once again. Spinach is a very common and popular leaf vegetable among the locals. It is easy to grow and can tolerate frost, a challenge that farmers on the Highveld have to cope with. She has since expanded her product line to include crops like cucurbits, green beans, cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower to name a few.
Her farming operations grew exponentially over the past two and a half years – she now owns a company named Vhegies of which the core business is to supply fresh vegetables to the surrounding communities and the Johannesburg – and Springs markets. She also farms on another piece of land in the Boksburg region and expanded to farm in Limpopo as well.
Sophy is erecting a processing unit where, when it is completed, she will be able to process and package her produce in order to increase the shelf life.
This young farmer lives by the motto – We are what we eat and therefore we must grow what we eat.
She believes that her Vhegies will provide the nutrients for stronger bodies and minds and better health for many people.
Western Cape New Entrant to Commercial Farming – Paul Siguqa
Paul Siguqa and his wife Makhosazana own Klein Goederust, Franschhoek’s first 100% Black-owned wine farm. They bought the 10-hectare farm, dating to 1905, in 2019 for R12 million, solely acquired from the savings of more than 15 years by the son of a farm labourer. They planted their first vines and opened their facilities in 2021. Klein Goederust has since become a must-visit destination, winning the Best of Wine Tourism Ambassador Awards “Authentic South African Experience 2023”.
Paul’s journey is inspired by his mother, Nomaroma Siguqa, a lifelong wine farm labourer. Paul grew up on Backsberg Wine Estate in Simonsberg, where his mother taught him to reach beyond the farm gates, get an education, and work hard to achieve his dreams. Selling fruit as a road-side hawker to buy his first car and pay for his media studies in addition to bursaries, Paul went on to work in advertising before starting his own communications company, determined to one day return to farming.
Paul and winemaker Rodney Zimba, his best friend, grew up together on Backsberg. In 2016, he approached Rodney with his plan to buy a farm. The two of them were dismayed when they came across the neglected 10-hectare Klein Goederust wine farm.
The farm was the local crime hotspot; it had no fencing, and the vineyards had a disease. No one else wanted to buy it. It needed too much work, too much time, and too much money. But Paul knew he could not afford anything better, as at an average of R1 million per hectare, Franschhoek represents some of the most expensive agricultural land in the country. The two put their efforts, along with those of local workers, into restoring the vineyards. The previous owner had planted olive trees, and the farm had gone to ruin. Paul took out all the vines, did land and soil analysis, put in drainage and fencing, and got advice on the best varietals to plant. It took the team over two years of renovation, landscaping, replanting, and rebuilding. Klein Goederust has since produced 30 000 bottles of wine. Their flagship wine, the Nomaroma MCC, named after Paul’s mother, sold out within 60 days of its first release.
Starting a boutique wine estate during challenging times has been no easy feat. Paul encourages emerging farmers to seek mentorship from experienced wine industry professionals who can offer guidance and valuable networks. The Western Cape Department of Agriculture and SA Wine Industry Transformation Unit (SAWITU) assisted Paul to replace irrigation, purchase a tractor, plant new vineyards, as well as through marketing and market access support.
The original farmhouse has been restored and now serves as a restaurant offering a popular truly South African spit braai experience and events space. The stable has been turned into a wine-tasting room. Starting out with five staff members in 2019, they now employ 24 people, all locals.
Klein Goederust stands as a testament to changing the narrative – that children of farm labourers do not necessarily become farm labourers and that Black farmers can be successful if they are dedicated and supported by industry.
Northern Cape New Entrant to Commercial Farming – Lesego Holzapfel
Bee Loved Honey is produced by previously disadvantaged small farmers in South Africa, including 40 beekeepers in rural Northern Cape.
Founder Lesego Holzapfel of Bokamoso Impact Investments has created a sustainable model for enhancing rural communities’ household income while solving social and environmental issues. Lesego first learned about beekeeping after she launched the Agrihub in the Kalahari, when community members talked about the abundance of bees in their regions. Because the project in the Kalahari is focused on primary agriculture, they looked at ways to diversify farmers income. Beekeeping provides a good opportunity for transformation and job creation as there are very few Black beekeepers in South Africa. The industry has a low barrier to entry as there are low hive capital expenses and no operational expenses, only simple training is required, and beekeeping is best located in rural areas. There is a high demand for quality honey as South Africa is a net importer which produces 2000 tons of honey but imports 3000 tons. Beekeeping offers long-term sustainability as one hive can provide 5-6 years’ worth of income for a beekeeper.
Bee Loved Honey:
- identifies enthusiastic people in rural communities, supply them with beehives and train them as professional beekeepers through a 12-months mentorship programme,
- connects beekeepers with farms for pollination, brokering contracts for sustainable livelihood,
- collects the raw honey, bottles it, and distributes it to stores and their online shop, and
- collaborates with organisations worldwide to fundraise for making high-quality beehives.
Bee Loved Honey and its Northern Cape beekeepers collaborate closely together through monthly site visits, training, and assistance to the beekeepers. Courier services such as Pudo are used to deliver the raw honey to the Bee Loved Honey hub.
Since inception, Bee Loved Honey has manufactured 1 000 beehives, and produced 400-500 tons of honey. They recently started exporting to the USA and they have just secured a retail distribution agreement with Shoprite/Checkers.
Bee Loved Honey wants to build one million beehives by 2025 and distribute them across Africa to combat the honeybee population decline. Inspiring action has already been set in motion by students from Round Square Schools worldwide. In 2022, they officially launched the One Million Beehives 2025 campaign, resulting in sponsorship of numerous beehives, implemented in beekeeper training programmes. These young champions demonstrate that anyone, regardless of age or background, can make a tangible impact on our planet.
Gauteng Agriculturalist of the Year: Corné Louw
Corné Louw was born and bred in Bloemfontein in the Free State, where he matriculated at Grey-College (1995 – 1999) and studied at the University of the Free State. He started his career at the University of the Free State as a research-assistant, where he assisted with practical lectures to the third-year agricultural economics students and worked on several research projects with Professor André Jooste.
These included, inter alia, the competitiveness of the red meat industry in South Africa as well as the Fruit Industry Plan for South Africa.
He joined Grain SA in 2005 and served in various roles related to agricultural economics. Currently he is the Lead for Applied Economics and Member Services at Grain SA where he leads a dynamic team of agricultural economist in promoting the policy environment in the grain value chain, market, and input environment to the benefit of grain and oilseed producers. Grain SA supplies strategic commodity information to the grain farmer in South Africa and on the fore front of these services stands Corné Louw.
He plays a vital role in influencing the input and production environment in order to promote the profitability of especially grain farmers in South Africa. In his work he focuses on the unique and individual drivers of grain production profitability with specific attention to inputs. Grain SA and the Applied Economics Team, which Corné leads, was also instrumental to the exponential growth of the soybean industry in South Africa.
His passion towards the industry, and the insight he has in a farmer, the industry, and organised agriculture environments, is invaluable. His knowledge of and insight in the broad industry, particularly his understanding of agricultural inputs, is an asset not only to Grain SA, but to the entire industry. Farmers, agricultural administrators, input suppliers and the media alike, value the information and insights that he provides.
Corné serves as Director on the Board of SACTA (The SA Cultivar and Technology Agency), Trustee at SAWCIT, Trustee at the Sasol Agricultural Trust and often acts as Grain SA’s representative on industry and policy forums. He often talks at farmers’ days, congresses, seminars, act as moderator or host during congress panel discussions, and take part in government and industry discussions representing not only Grain SA but the local farmer.
He is married to Hilda and has two children, Lisa, and Chris. In his spare time Corné plays in the Pretoria squash league. Corné enjoys running, reading, and exploring the outdoors and enjoys broadening his knowledge of biodiversity, with a specific interest in trees.
Free State Agriculturalist of the Year: Prof. Frikkie Maré
Prof Frikkie Maré is an Associated Professor and Head of the Department Agricultural Economics, University of the Free State. Originally from the small town of Hopetown, Northern Cape Province, he started his tertiary education at the University of the Free State in 2005, where he obtained the following degrees: BSc in Animal Science and Agricultural Economics (2008), BSc Hon in Agricultural Economics (2009), MSc in Agricultural Economics (2014) and PhD in Agricultural Economics (2018).
Through his research endeavours, he was a study leader for 10 Masters and three PhD students, published 30 scientific articles and delivered 24 presentations at national and international academic conferences.
He is involved in the agricultural sector in multiple ways. He is very passionate about the red meat industry and focuses on economic issues found in the red meat value chain. Through his primary position at the UFS, he conducts applicable research to benefit the red meat industry. He is also the Editor for the agricultural magazine Veeplaas where he assists with the magazine’s planning ensuring that it contains valuable and up-to-date information on livestock farming.
His impact on the livestock and red meat sector is continuously improving with his involvement in the various organisations supporting this. It is not only the South African livestock and red meat sector who benefits from his knowledge and guidance but also Namibia’s livestock producers for whom he has serviced as a keynote speaker at a number of occasions.
Western Cape Agriculturist of the Year and national award recipient – Dr Dirk Troskie
Dr Dirk Troskie started his career as a farmer but later turned his hand to lecturing before joining the South African civil service. He is currently the Director: Business Planning and Strategy in the Western Cape Department of Agriculture (WCDoA) in South Africa but is also often referred to as the ‘shifting spanner’ of the Department.
In this capacity he is responsible to provide advice and information on strategic issues to the Department and the Sector. Matters of strategic relevance are researched, interventions proposed, and the impact and outcome of interventions are evaluated. As a result of these efforts, the WCDoA is considered as one of the leading evaluating Departments in the country and on the African Continent.
From a research perspective, he remains particularly interested in the interaction between values, culture, quality, geography, and farming (i.e., Geographical Indicators), developing agrarian economies in a globalising world, embracing the fourth industrial revolution in the context of local realities as well as responsive and responsible government.
At an international level he had the opportunity to serve as the Southern African representative on the Executive Committee of the African Association of Agricultural Economists (AAAE) as well as being invited by the African Union to participate in the process to develop a Geographical Indication (GI) Strategy for Africa. He was also fortunate to be responsible to arrange a number of international conferences.
Gauteng Farmer of the Year: Jimie Malan
Malanseuns Plesierplante celebrated their 110th anniversary this year. The nursery was started in 1913 by Danie Malan on the northern slopes of the Magaliesberg between Akasia and Rosslyn outside Pretoria. It was originally a fruit farm and surplus fruit trees were sold to the public to plant on farms and in gardens.
Later, the business grew so much that four of Danie’s sons started growing ornamental plants to supplement the sales of the fruit trees. Today, Malanseuns is considered a world leader in the cultivation and distribution of fruit trees, seedlings, and ornamental plants. They already plant more than 6,000 plants daily.
Malanseuns is now under the management of Jimie Malan – the fourth generation of the Malans who is still doing everything in his power to realize the Malanseuns dream – and that is to make gardening popular again by making it easy, convenient, and affordable for every gardener.
The business is still fully owned by his father, Jacques Malan, and both Jimie’s brother and sister are also involved in different branches of the business.
It is the company’s mission to create one of the largest breeder and new genetics networks in existence through which they can gain access to exceptional plant genetics. Their recently introduced deep blue agapanthus Midnight Sky was named New Plant of the Year this year at the Chelsea Flower Show in London, England.
Apart from its exceptional colour, the inflorescence of the Midnight Sky is also exceptional. Normal agapanthus only bloom for about two months each year, but the Midnight Sky can bloom for nine months of the year. One can even have flowers all year round if you give the plants enough love, according to Jimie.
They use appropriate technology to optimize production and one example of this is their fully automated greenhouse which enables them to grow plants of the best quality throughout the year without being tied to the season as they were in the past. be.
The Malan Group’s other farming branches include Ankole cattle and the breeding of stud game and selective hunting. The Malans made headlines in 2012 when they sold a buffalo bull at an auction in Limpopo for what was then a record price, R26 million. The bull had a horn width of 51 inches and a horn shield of 16 inches.
Mpumalanga Farmer of the Year and national award recipient: Dewald Te Water
When it comes to adding value and the ability to take advantage of opportunities, there are few that can hold a candle to Dewald te Water of the Te Water Boerdery on the farm Schurvekop near Bethal. Dewald is a farmer who adds value to every product and commodity produced by the Boerdery, whether it is corn, soybeans, oats, or cattle.
A unique approach to maize value addition – Dewald is known for his unique value addition to maize and soybean cultivation within his farming. Five years ago, he saw the opportunity to make popcorn, chips and breakfast cereal from the corn cultivated on the farm. After thorough research, which included market conditions as well as the technical aspects of this type of production, he set up 30 “popcorn cannons” in a plant on the farm.
Here, popcorn is produced in bulk by means of heat and pressure through the cannons. The popcorn is also packed, distributed, and marketed under Dewald’s own brand. It is a unique concept that is already well known in South African agricultural circles.
The opportunity to also produce chips led to Dewald joining forces with a company in Potchefstroom and setting up a production line on the farm that not only produces chips, but also a breakfast cereal. Both the chips and cereal are also packaged on the farm, distributed from there and marketed across the country.
Silage operations – One of the additional divisions of the farm is the production of high quality silage, mainly for exports to the Middle Eastern markets. In 2022, Dewald won the Sanlam Landbou National Silage Competition’s divisions for forage sorghum and oat silage and finished second in the maize division. Thus, it is clear that the silage produced on Schurvekop is of the highest quality. Dewald is also a shareholder in the company Exact Silage, which also acts as local distributor for the Norwegian silage production company Orkel. He believes in using exceptional technology, together with the best quality raw materials in order to produce a high-quality silage that is baled. In this way, silage is easier to transport, and the quality remains high all the time.
Cattle farming – Together with the sowing department, Dewald is also a cattle farmer and a staunch supporter of the Bovelder cattle breed. The farm not only has a Bovelder herd, but also operates a commercial Bovelder herd.
Western Cape farmer of the Year – De La Fontaine/Deli-Co
The Truters of De La Fontaine are 5th generation Riebeek Kasteel farmers. The traditional mixed farming operation has been going strong for 130 years, and for the past 30 years Team Truter has been adding value to the farm produce through meat processing. Today, Deli Co, is a leading agribusiness in the Western Cape, employing more than 650 people, rapidly growing and creating opportunities for other livestock farmers in the immediate region and beyond. “I see our business as an enabler in the red meat industry, we work hard to increase both demand and supply to ensure a healthy industry,” says Hendri Truter. As CEO, the youngest brother, Hendri, is at the steer, but the entire Truter family, including the next generation is working hard to grow all aspects of the business and meet set goals such as employing 1000 people by 2030.
The 1300 hectare farm is at the core of the business. Eldest brother, Pieter Truter, steers this ship. The farm produces wheat according to minimum tillage and conservation farming practices. A number of rotational crops are produced. These crops are used in the on-farm feed factory that feeds the on-farm feedlot, finishing system and lamb holding facilities. The factory producers more than 25 000 tonnes per day, for the Deli Co lamb finishing system only. A total of 12 000 lambs can be accommodated in the feedlot where the focus is to get bought-in lambs market ready for optimal profitability. Deli Co buys animals from 1036 farmers in a 1000-kilometer radius around the farm. For biosecurity reasons, no more animals are raised on the farm, and the hectares are used to focus on feed production and animal finishing. Middle Brother, Frederick Truter, is the producer relationship manager and steers this part of the ship.
It is striking that all the aspects of the business can compete on a global level. The world-class slaughtering and processing facilities, the conservation farming practices learned from around the world and more. Taking the value chain from farm to fork, Deli Co has three Bistros and Farm-style butcheries, supplies 2000 businesses with the meat needs and has 500 delivery stops per day across South Africa.