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MASDT’s light shines bright in the Cango Valley

“MASDT has taken us out of the darkness into the light by transferring sound farming knowledge through their workshops and regular visits.”

These are the words of Jeremy Strydom, a fourth-generation emerging farmer who strongly believes in tobacco cultivation to grow his farming enterprise into a commercial business. He farms on Matjiesrivier, a 100ha farm in the Swartberg’s Cango Valley outside Oudtshoorn, which he shares with other farmers.

This season Jeremy planted 3ha of Burley and 1ha of Sun Cured Virginia (SCV) tobacco he estimates will reap a profit of R50 000. The money, he says, he will plough back into the farm to extend a diverse range of agricultural activities, including dairy production, a piggery, sheep and a range of vegetables.

Jeremy, alias Rudi, is a cousin of neighbour Riaan Strydom, who is also in the tobacco farming business. They share their knowledge and information they get from MASDT’s tuition and, through sound farming practices, both are set to become commercial in the not so distant future.

What separates him from his fellow farmers in the Cango Valley is that Jeremy grows his own Burley tobacco seedlings from seeds he obtained from the Agricultural Research Council. His SCV tobacco seedlings he buys from Riaan Moore’s nursery at Patensie. He has erected three tunnels in which his tobacco is cured.

“Since my involvement with MASDT I have seen my farming business really taking shape. I am looking forward to a yield of 2 000kg/ha, and if we work on the assumption of R27p/kg for SCV, then we are looking at an income of around R54 000. Our Burley should bring in about R28 to R30p/kg, pushing up the total income to about R90 000. Of that some R40 000 went into production costs and expenses,” he points out.

With MASDT’s recent visit, it was clear that Jeremy was making strides with his farming enterprise. He delivers 240 litres of milk to the Klein-Karoo Dairy in Oudtshoorn every two days, and his sheep herd has grown to 40 head. He also has 40 pigs. The sheep and pigs are sold at Kanse Krale Auctions in Oudtshoorn. He has also planted potatoes and onions on 0,5ha.

“I am fortunate to have my own tractor, but still make use of the community tractor at peak ploughing times. Water for irrigation comes from the Matjies River, and depending on income growth, I plan to build a dam soon to store water for dryer seasons. Our main aim is to plant more tobacco so that the income from it can be used to diverse our farming operation even further.”

Fellow farmer and neighbour Joseph Joseph of the farm Matjiesrivier-Zeerhok, has followed Jeremy’s advice and this year for the first time planted 1h of SCV tobacco. For him the outcome has been daunting.

“To tell you the honest truth, I am becoming more scared as the tobacco grows. I never for my life have thought that it would be so successful. Just look at it,” he says proudly as he waves his arm at the land.

“I expect a yield of 2 400kg, but my goal is 3 000. I am looking for more land so that I can grow the operation because I have hopelessly fallen in love with tobacco,” Joseph says.

Matjiesrivier-Zeerhok sources its water from a pipeline in the Swartberg, which he relays to a dam making him self-sufficient when it comes to irrigation.

The farm Matjiesrivier in the Swartberg’s Cango Valley near Oudtshoorn.

A part of Jeremy Strydom’s tobacco crop at Matjiesrivier.

Jeremy at some of the SCV tobacco curing in the tunnel.

More of Jeremy’s tobacco being cured.

A part of Joseph Joseph’s tobacco crop at Matjiesrivier-Zeerhok.

Two of Joseph’s curing tunnels for SCV tobacco.

Joseph says his success with SCV tobacco has scared him, but he is looking out for additional land to plant more.

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