OPINION: Hurdles of being a farmer

By Ronnie Mckenzie, Farmers United of South Africa President

Most farmworkers may find themselves on the receiving end of their bosses’ anger, especially when things don’t go right on the farms.

Ronnie Mckenzie, Farmers United of South Africa President, has shared his opinion on why it sometimes happens.

NB: This article is not to promote the deliberate abuse of workers in the name of ‘not doing their work’. Workers have rights, first as people and then as workers, according to the labour laws of South Africa.

It’s always or never understood why the treatment of our people becomes harsh on the farms.

Let’s set aside low salaries of which is indeed a concern to me as a farmer, and surely, many other farmers and look at other factors.

Having to focus on work and expectations of workers…we as farmers, not subsidized at all, and always at the dictated side for our own produce, have so much to take in.

When we lose animals, crops or spanners on the farms as a result of negligence by our very own workers, it is never a good thing.  

Losing one animal is one too many.

Imagine an animal dying because of dehydration for instance or crops not germinating because of dehydration, spanners lost because someone forgets them in the fields or a tractor engine breaking down because of water or oil not checked before using.

All such happening under the watch of those you entrust and hired to assist build the farm.

Indeed if all goes well, the farmer is happy and workers are happy too. But if all doesn’t go well, for example, prices at the market are low/bad, animals dying because of negligence or plants too, then what?

The frustration of a farmer leads to many things happening on the farm, including fighting with employees, drinking excessively, fighting with family, selling off equipment and even suicide.

So…having to be a farmer you need to be thick-skinned in order to deal with drought, diseases, staff, family, climate and still, yourself.

I thought it is important to speak on this because of the challenges we seem to face as farmers which aren’t exactly known to the ordinary man in the street.

Of recent, I’ve found myself more in fighting with my workers because of their negligence and their inability to comprehend the importance of the loss of an animal. The animal that takes u a long time to rear, spend money on vaccinations and costs of labor.

There it is at that stage where it’s now pregnant and expects its offspring only to lose the baby because someone had failed to check on it and other animals trample upon the calf, lamb or piglets…how painful is that?

Just imagine at harvest time crops being rejected because they are full of aphids…and just because someone failed to spray on time.

Get to harvest and someone failed to harvest in time and they are overgrown.

In all other challenges the farmer goes through, who’s there to rescue the farmer’s loss? Not insurance, government nor the retailer…just another season down the drain.

What then needs to be done??? Yes, you can do your best with your employees but then again the attitude…such attitudes lie it is not mine…he/she will see to finish.

Others will argue that this is the product of incorrect training/mentoring/coaching etc… but I’ll argue differently … it’s the MINDSET!


When given that accommodation with “free” electricity, lights aren’t spared at all, during the day when visiting their quarters as a random visit, you’ll find lights burning or the stove as it’s also used to light cigarettes in the absence of a lighter or matches … What then does one do???


Since we fill our Jojo tanks with water from our boreholes as farmers, we pump water. At times, most of the time actually, water will be left to overflow to a point that there are puddles everywhere because someone forgot to close the tap or switch off the pump. Those are costs back to the electricity since that pump uses electricity… and whose bill is that?

We’ve built our people to have a not caring mindset at our very own expense and to our very own detriment.

I woke up the other day to a loss of a baby goat due to the inability or don’t care attitude of the shepherd. It was born during the night and was trampled upon by others. I lost of a full-grown sow because of a similar thing to the other…worker failed to check whether the tanks had water & dehydration killed the sow.

Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Mzansi Agriculture Talk or its members.

Think of the farmer while eating your Sunday lunch today.

OPINION: Hurdles of being a farmer
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