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What is a Commercial Farmer- South Africa

South African agriculture is comprised of mainly two categories of farmers -- the subsistence farmers in the former homeland areas and the large-scale commercial  farmers. This is in contrast with the situation in many other countries in the world where one would find a whole range of farm sizes, ranging from the very small or subsistence farmer to the very large farmer/agribusiness. 



Small-scale farmers in an international context and compares it with the South African situation that is totally different. In South Africa the concept of "small-scale farmer" is usually value-laden, creates wrong impressions and is often viewed in a negative light. "Small-scale" is often equated with a backward, nonproductive, non-commercial, subsistence agriculture that we find in parts of the former homeland areas. 

The negative perceptions towards small scale farms by redefining the small-scale farmer and laying to rest the fallacy that small relates to land size only.

Governments the world over are coming to realize the important role that small farms can play in modern economies. 

Strange as it may seem, given the dominance of large-scale and corporate farming businesses over the past several decades, the mainstream agricultural supply chains and conglomerates still cannot provide and distribute enough food for the world on their own. Neither can they create the jobs needed in emerging economies such as ours.

Big businesses run extremely lean because they can afford the latest technologies in order to be highly efficient. This reduces their reliance on entry-level labour. At the same time, the number of large organizations is decreasing all the time. The number of commercial farmers in this country has dropped from 66 000 in 1990 to around 35 000 today. 

This trend is not unique to South Africa, and results from low margins at farm-gate level. These force commercial farmers to consolidate in order to gain economies of scale. However, even giant value chains cannot exploit all the land that is available. In fact, most of the developing world’s available agricultural land is in the hands of subsistence, small-scale or family farmers. 

And the world has now realized that these farmers can play a key role in eradicating hunger, reducing rural poverty and improving global food security – but only if these farmers are assisted to achieve sustainable agricultural production. 

Celebrating family farming
The UN, through the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO), has declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming. Governments around the world have been invited to:

  • Place small-scale farming at the centre of regional, national and global agricultural, environmental and social policies;
  • Elevate the role of smallholder farmers as stewards who manage and protect natural resources and drive sustainable development.


Farm size is not the issue
Currently, large- and small-scale farming seem incompatible. Large commercial producers operate within systems dominated by multinational corporations with influence across the entire food supply chain. By contrast, small-scale farmers exist either at subsistence level or are able to sell only small surpluses on their local markets. But when looking to improve the contribution that small-scale farmers can make to society, it is important to remember that the descriptor ‘small-scale’ does not necessarily refer to the size of the land. 

It can refer to the type of product the farmer is producing, the market in which he is operating, or the farmer’s reasons for farming. Often, ‘family farming’, for instance, is about a way of life and not only about commercial ambition. However, if a small-scale farmer wants to be profitable – or become part of the commercial value chain – there are some basics he can easily apply to his operations to quickly create meaningful and visible change. 

The first is knowing the market that is available; there are crop and market combinations that suit smaller operations better than large ones. Logistics should also influence production decisions, because they dictate how, when, in what condition, and at what cost produce can be taken to the market.

Government’s crucial role
At the same time, government has a role to play in terms of refocusing policy so that it enables closer relationships between producers and consumers. It is only at macro level that local or regional markets can be revitalised and organised in ways that create space for small-scale farmers.

The next step is to join forces. Collaborating with like-minded or like-sized farmers can create a unit that acts as if it is a large-scale producer. This results in more cost-effective purchases, more favourable insurance negotiations, access to extension services and the ability to sell in bulk, which helps reduce the cost of logistics. Collaboration also helps small-scale farmers to create contract opportunities, limit price risk and make finance more accessible.

It creates the opportunity to develop a better understanding of the value chain, which could open doors for farmers to actively contribute to the value chain by adding value to the product they present to the market. In addition, effective producer organisations serve as a source of knowledge and mentoring.

However, collaboration needs the right combination of managerial expertise, capital investment, and structuring of the group. Even with shared interests, members within a group must be highly motivated to work together, and proper principles and rules are essential to ensure cohesion of intent and action. In addition, before involving other farmers, it is important for a small-scale farmer to make sure that what he is doing right now in his operations is top-rate. Involving more farmers means growth. Growth based on a flawed operation will fail. Small-scale farmers should therefore strive for excellence before going big.

As the small-scale farmer needs to do a little more to become commercially viable, mainstream agriculture also has a role to play.

What is needed here is to focus on how to develop and integrate small farmers into an overall system that becomes self-sustaining and ensures job creation, economic stability, food security, and food self-sufficiency.

Commercial farms are often larger than regular family farms because economies of scale are richly sought after due to the immense competition involved. Another difference is that commercial farms regularly employ outside help due to the level of work required. Family members can also be involved, but a key factor that differentiates commercial farming is that hired help is used. Commercial farms also tend to make use of new technologies in order to increase output and create competitive advantages where possible.

We need to define a Megafarmer but in real terms it's a Farmer in South Africa with a yearly Income of more than R50 million. But it need to be classify in certain categories.  These farms are running by huge companies. 

To be labeled a megafarm often discounts the fact that many farms are now multi-generation with three or four families to support. Why, then, should a farm with 5,000 acres be labeled •megafarm' when it has the equivalent amount of acreage typical for one farm family?

Family matters "The connection between family and farming is still important and what makes ag strong,

Ironically, farmers are nearly always motivated to grow their businesses into so-called megafarms' so that family can have a future on those operations.

Large farms aren't really all that different than most family farms. "The one way they are different is that they are required to be more savvy in the ways they deal with the public," he says. "In my opinion, the word •megafarm' has a perception that those farmers are out of touch with core consumer values.

"It's fair to say middle-sized farms are being redefined, but I don't think they are going away.

A farmer is someone who works under the umbrella of agriculture, producing a variety of food products for human and animal consumption. There are several kinds of farmers ranging from farmers who raise animals to farmers who grow crops.

There is a quote that is very accurate when describing a farmer - "Farmers farm for the love of farming. They love to watch and nurture the growth of plants. They love to live in the presence of animals. They love to work outdoors. They love the weather, maybe even when it is making them miserable." - Wendell Berry.

A farmer's main goal is to produce a good crop and/or healthy animals in order to make a living and to feed the population. Farmers are responsible for all crops and livestock that are needed for us to survive. Without food, the world would slowly die, and farmers work hard every day to keep plenty of crops and animal products in the market to keep that from happening.

What does a Farmer do?

A farmer has various responsibilities within their particular field. Whether it is the purchasing and planting of seeds on a cash crop farm, the purchasing of quality breeding stock on an animal husbandry farm, or the diet and care of a specific type of livestock on an animal production farm, a farmer needs to have a wide knowledge base of the agricultural industry as a whole.

Besides the general knowledge of planting dates, breeding cycles and harvesting periods, a farmer often needs a good working knowledge of mechanics in order to keep their equipment running and in optimal order.

A strong working knowledge of the limitations and regulations of the Food and Drug Administration, state agencies, and local government is a must for a farmer, as there are many regulations placed on the agricultural industry.

The following are various types of farmers. Click on each type to learn what they do.

Organic Farmer - produces fruits, vegetables, grains, or livestock without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers

Grain and Forage Crop Farmer - grows grains such as wheat, barley, canola, oats, rye, flax, peas and speciality crops or forage crops

Dairy Farmer - owns or manages a farm where cows are raised for the production of milk and other dairy products

Poultry Farmer - raises domesticated birds such as geese, ducks, turkeys or chickens

Rancher - raises livestock such as cattle or sheep, or less common livestock such as elk, bison, ostrich, emu or alpacas

Beekeeper - keeps honey bees, and produces honey, pollen, royal jelly and beeswax

Vermiculturist - breeds worms and uses the worms to convert waste products such as uneaten food, feces, grass clippings, and spoiled fruit and vegetables into healthy, nutrient-rich soil and organic fertilizer

Alligator Farmer - breeds and raises alligators or crocodiles in order to produce leather, meat and other goods

What is the workplace of a Farmer like?

Where a farmer works is based on which area of the agricultural industry they choose to work. Here we will outline just a few of the many options available, to include fish farming, cash crop farming, animal husbandry, and livestock production.

In the area of fish farming -
farmers will manage a large fishery, often specializing in one variety of fish, such as tilapia. These farmers specialize in the raising of fish to be processed for consumption or to be released into lakes, rivers, and streams in the attempt to repopulate a dying waterway. Fish farmers need to know the specifics of the species they are raising as well as the environmental requirements placed upon them by federal, state, and local governments.

In the area of cash crop farming -
a farmer will raise crops to market for consumption, medical use, animal food production, and the growing herbal industry. A farmer in this field will be responsible for the planting, fertilization, and harvesting of the crops, as well as transport to the proper production elevators for sale at harvest. Cash crop farmers will need a strong working knowledge of planting times, harvesting times, and weather patterns in order to gain a good footing in their field.

Some of these crops may be processed to be sold back to farmers for future use. These crops are purchased by seed companies who treat the crops and process them, then sell them to farmers to use the next season as seeds to plant their fields. Other examples of such a circular sale include crops that are purchased to produce animal feed, which is then later sold to farmers in the animal husbandry and livestock production fields.

In animal husbandry -
farmers concentrate on providing healthy, hearty livestock for later processing for consumption. Farmers often specialize in one type of animal in this field, carefully breeding the livestock to produce the best quality offspring each season. Offspring are then raised to take the place of the current breeding stock over time, with the current breeding stock sold after a period of time. Animal husbandry requires a strong knowledge of blood lines and species types, as well as the best possible out-crossings of those types to provide the best results in breeding.

Also, some offspring may be sold to other farms who specialize in livestock production to be raised for a specific production purpose. A veal farm is one example of a farm involved in specialized livestock production that may purchase offspring from an animal husbandry farm for a specific production purpose. As the calves must be placed on a special diet, these farms are responsible for holding the livestock to that diet, monitoring their health, and selling them to production facilities at the proper age, weight, and size to produce the necessary product requirements for their field. Animal production farmers will need to know the diets, illnesses, treatments, and growth rates necessary for their specialized areas.

How can I become a Farmer?

A good way to see if you'd like to be a farmer is to speak with some experienced farmers. Look for farmers that are doing the type of farming you'd like to do and ask them if they'd mind spending some time with you to answer some of your questions. There's no better way to find out what it's really like, and to get very helpful advice.

University is a fantastic way to study agriculture, economics and business management. Today's farmer is an entrepreneur, and knowing agricultural business is very important. Farmers need to know how to survive, and if you would like to take it further than the farm-labour stage, then education in all aspects of farming is needed.

Another way to gain knowledge of farming is to become an apprentice. Offer your services as a farm hand. This is an excellent way to acquire knowledge for free and to gain invaluable experience. Farmers News 


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