Siphiwe Nyathi trades her writing tools for farming

By Yoliswa Hlatshwayo

You were a journalist and now you’re into farming. How did you venture into it full time?

I was a Plant Production graduate from the Lowveld College of Agriculture which is now University of Mpumalanga before joining African Eye News in 2008. The plan was to be a farming reporter because I was a top learner in Agricultural Sciences and History in my class.
I completed my media studies at Amazwi School of media arts in Hoedspruit. Most journalists find agriculture stories boring but for me it was so fulfilling and fun. My former editor, Sharon Hammond enjoyed subbing my farming stories although at times, more research needed to be done. 
My love for writing started when I was doing grade 6 when my essays were always read in front of the class. My English teacher would complement me.
I also participated in school debates and never shy to speak my mind. As they say, the rest is history.

Switching careers, what have you found to be sustainable compared to when you were in journalism?

Switching from journalism to farming was a difficult choice for me. It was like having to choose between children because writing is a lifestyle and farming is a passion. Joining Vutsela Iglobhu Investment at Ryton Estate in Hemlock has been wonderful because my leadership skills were unleashed.
I never thought farming can be exciting to this extent, however I never stopped learning. My friends advised me to do both which is something am really considering. I’m currently busy with poetry collection which I am hoping to publish in 2022. I must admit, my son Tebogo was not happy with my switch but he later understood. He loved reading my Daily Sun articles and bragging about it to his friends. These days he always asks me about various citrus cultivars and challenges facing women in farming. It is always a fascinating conversation.

What type of farming are you into?

 Citrus and avocados that we export to various countries including Canada, Russia and China. Locally the farm supplies Woolworths and Pick n Pay. Some fruits that don’t get exported are usually sent to Malalane for processing.

Take us through your day in the farm

When I started out in 2018, I was a junior manager at the pack house where I was supervising more than 200 seasonal workers and also did fruit quality control where I was working with the export certification agency, Perishable Products Export Control Board (PPECB) inspectors to inspect the fruits before being exported. This year, I was given the responsibility to take over as the Assistant Compliance manager and Health and Safety supervisor for the farm where I enforce safety at the working place and also ensures that we comply with the global standards as one of top citrus exporters in the province. My leadership qualities were put in to test and I nailed it.

What has been your biggest highlight?

When I was given full responsibility of leading the Health and Safety department at the farm last year and the trust that my general manager, Werner Blom has put in me. He is my inspiration because he is willing to transfer his rich skills and knowledge in farming to us.

What’s your motto in life? 

Even when they don’t believe in you, press on.

Some people are considering taking the same route as you did. What would your advice be to them?

It can be done. I was inspired by Carol Sanderson after she left radio to pursue the tourism industry and establish her lodge.
I am not there yet, but I am also planning to own my vegetable farm and employ women in my community.
Choose your career wisely so that you can turn it into a lifestyle when earning.
We are at the final stage of preparing a vegetable plot with my brother and I can’t wait to turn the soil into gold.
I believe that farming is the way and we will never run of food if young people can venture in to it.
It is our duty to change the face of commercial farming, transform and take it to greater heights.

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