Agricultural Writers SA North names its regional candidates for national awards

Agricultural Writers SA North named its regional candidates on 29 September during its awards evening in Pretoria. The candidates were nominated by Agricultural Writers members in the sections for Farmer of the Year, Agriculturist of the Year, and New Entrant to Commercial Agriculture. These provincial candidates, together with candidates from the !Xhariep region (Western, Eastern and Northern Cape) will now be adjudicated by an independent panel of judges. The national Agricultural Writers SA awards event will be presented this year on 17 November 2023 in the Cape.

The Agricultural Writers SA North event’s main sponsors were New Holland Agriculture, NWK, and Rijk Zwaan, supported by Chemunique, Van Loveren and the South African Pork Producers Organization (SAPPO).

Lindi Botha, chairperson of Agricultural Writers SA North, said during the event that despite economic pressure felt worldwide by every sector, agriculture as an industry continues to stand out as flourishing, while others decline. “This is a testament to the resilience and innovation of everyone involved in agriculture. Tonight, we take the opportunity to honour everyone who plays a role in ensuring food security in the country, from producers to economists, input suppliers and industry organisations, for their contribution.”

Botha said that the road ahead is strewn with challenges. “Despite the success of our agricultural industry, we also think of those who find themselves in make-or-break situations. This therefore makes it all the more important to stand together, build relationships and work together in order to find solutions.”

She congratulated the finalists, saying they were the embodiment of passion, dedication, and determination.

FARMER OF THE YEAR: This year’s Northern region award recipients for Agricultural Writers SA Farmer of the Year are:
Jimie Malan (Gauteng) – nominated by Hanlie du Plessis, and
Dewald te Water (Mpumalanga) – nominated by Gerrit Bezuidenhout.

AGRICULTURIST OF THE YEAR: This year’s focus is on agricultural economists in the Agriculturalist of the Year section. The award recipients are:
Prof. Frikkie Maré (Free State) – nominated by Petrie Voge, and
Corné Louw (Gauteng) – nominated by Magda du Toit.

NEW ENTRANT TO COMMERCIAL AGRICULTURE: The third division, New Entrant to Commercial Agriculture, produced one candidate from the region. The focus falls on farmers who have made the leap from subsistence farmer to small-scale farmer to a full-fledged commercial producer in the past 10 years and have already achieved success on various levels and are still farming ahead. Sophy Musabeni Litshani (Gauteng) – nominated by Hanlie du Plessis is this year’s regional finalist.

More about the Agricultural Writers SA North finalists:

New Entrant to Commercial Farming


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 a passionate 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.

Agriculturalist of the Year:

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 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 practically 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.

Farmer of the Year finalists:

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 Malang 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: 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.