Empowering Farmers through Knowledge

Successful Female Agripreneur shares guiding principles for launching a Sustainable Farming Enterprise

In a remarkable journey post-retirement, Cynthia Sekgobela, a 67-year-old former accountant, redefines boundaries as she thrives in the world of agriculture. From swapping ledgers for a 2.5-hectare farm to leveraging innovative tools like the Husqvarna Tiller, Cynthia embodies resilience and passion. As we approach International Women’s Day on March 8th, her story serves as a testament to the enduring spirit of women and their ability to break barriers. Cynthia Sekgobela not only cultivates crops but also inspires a wave of change in the perception of age and gender roles in agriculture.

Cynthia Sekgobela receives training on her Husqvarna tiller from David Bithrey, an Area Business Manager (Gauteng) for Husqvarna South Africa.

For Cynthia Sekgobela, retirement in 2016 brought a bold new beginning. After 21 years as an accountant and tax consultant, she swapped her ledgers for her true passion in farming and started Gung’s Boerdry in Zuurbekom, a 2.5-hectare farm on the West Rand. As we approach International Women’s Day on 8th March, it is fitting that we should pay tribute to this dynamic, 67-year-old female agripreneur who is making a name for herself in the farming community and beyond.

“My father was a commercial farmer and a businessman in Winterveld, North of Pretoria and when he passed away in 1983, my brother took over,” Cynthia explains. “So, farming has always been in my blood, and I am so happy I could follow in my family’s footsteps as an organic farmer.”

Running the farm hasn’t always been easy with only two permanent employees and one part-time worker, limited resources and doing everything by hand for several years. However, this changed in 2023 when Cynthia started using a Husqvarna Tiller. This versatile machine quickly delivered improved efficiency and has contributed to the farm’s ability to supply 400kg of fresh vegetables per week to the Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market, hawkers and the local informal market.

“The tiller made a huge difference to our productivity. It has different attachments that do various jobs and it’s perfect for making new beds and planting crops. It’s so user-friendly that even I can use it,” she laughs.

Cynthia’s energy and passion are infectious and with food security a constant concern for many, her journey has already encouraged several people to have a bash at small-scale farming.

She shares her top five recommendations on how to start growing produce and turn it into a small-scale undertaking.

1. Urban farm garden

When starting off, you don’t need much space. Clear a 2m x 2m patch and start growing your vegetables in bags. Try tomatoes, onions and some herbs. Your soil mix is critical so make sure you buy the best quality soil possible. And you can make your own compost by using your kitchen waste.

2. Turn your produce into profit

When you have more vegetables than your family can eat, turn your farm garden into a business. It’s important to start modestly and set achievable goals. Being hands-on, patient and making smart decisions are crucial in the initial stages of farming. Set realistic targets and build a reliable network to sell your produce, thereby laying a solid foundation for growth.

3. Presentation is key

Farmers are in the business of food and your customers “eat with their eyes” so when you go to market, ensure your produce looks good. Present it in a box or plastic and pack it into brown paper bags, you can even use labels to enhance your product appeal. The same goes for the table on which your wares are displayed and what you are wearing; when you pay attention to presentation you build trust and drive sales.

4. Strategic crop choices

It’s important to stand out in the marketplace so if everyone is growing spinach, grow brinjals or onions. By exploring high-value products and diversifying produce, you will sell everything you grow at better prices. This takes some market research but you’ll get the hang of it and start to thrive in the competitive farming landscape.

5. Ensure regulatory compliance

As your farm grows, make sure your permits and paperwork are up to date as this can open doors to financial loans or potential investors. The additional capital will help you invest in essential infrastructure such as irrigation systems and equipment – both of which will streamline your operations, increase productivity and make you more money.

Cynthia’s trailblazing journey not only exemplifies the essential elements for a sustainable farming business but her story actively champions and inspires gender equality in agriculture, offering encouragement to other women and aspiring agripreneurs.

For more information or to view Husqvarna’s range of products, visit https://www.husqvarna.com/za/

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