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Santam Agriculture announces Free State’s Young Farmer winner

28 April 2010 Santam
Jan Scheepers and Amelia, his wife

Jan Scheepers and Amelia, his wife

Jan Scheepers, a 33-year-old farmer from the Eastern Free State, last night was named the 2010 Santam Agriculture Free State Agriculture Young Farmer of the Year. The judges were all in agreement that this year’s finalists were knowledgeable and highly competent farmers, and Scheepers is a deserving winner.

Santam Agriculture sponsors the Young Farmer competition on a provincial level in the Free State, North West, Western Cape and Mpumalanga, and is pleased to be associated with a competition that rewards high calibre, young South African farmers. “We at Santam Agriculture have a responsibility to help stimulate a positive environment for young farmers, organised agriculture and agri-businesses in South Africa. We need young farmers for the continuation of a healthy agricultural industry,” says Dr Tobias Doyer, Head of Santam Agriculture.

He adds that Santam’s involvement in the provincial Young Farmer competitions also contributes to promoting excellence in farming. “This competition is about setting benchmarks for farmers to aspire to. Excellence in farming is the best way to make agriculture competitive locally and internationally,” Doyer says.

2010 was an exceptional year for the Free State Young Farmer competition. In previous years, the judging panel only selected three finalists, but this year the standard of entries was so high that four young farmers were in the running for the prize.

Scheepers runs a diversified farming operation consisting of maize, beans, wheat, cattle and sheep on the farm Zandvallei in the Fouriesburg area. He feels honoured to receive the award and believes that young farmers play an important role in building a legacy of highly competent South African farmers. “Young farmers have a critical role to play. They are the farmers of tomorrow and they have to think innovatively and apply modern technology to produce affordable food,” Scheepers says.

His primary goal is to enjoy farming and although he’s been farming fulltime for twelve years, he says that he’s actually been involved in farming for as long as he can remember. He also likes to push the boundaries of what he can achieve with the business in terms of improving sustainability and profitability, amid tough farming conditions. Furthermore, he ensures that the business remains financially sound and he believes that financial stability makes it possible for farmers to take opportunities and survive challenges.

To win this competition a farmer needs to pay attention to detail, be an astute businessman and competent in all aspects of farming. Finalists are assessed according to strict criteria. A panel of judges, who are all experts in their respective fields, scrutinise every aspect of the farmer’s business. The judging team plays a central role to uphold the high standard of the competition.

The most important criteria are the farmer’s management philosophy, as well as his ability and technical know-how to carry out the plan. The judges evaluated farming aspects such as production, marketing, administration, finance and labour management. The farmer’s involvement with organised agriculture, his community and his professional profile were also considered. The judges also looked for a farmer who could comfortably think out of the box and apply strategies to farm sustainably.

Santam Agriculture hopes that the Young Farmer Competition would continue to inspire young farmers to farm in a sustainable and technologically advanced manner and stay at the forefront of agricultural developments.

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