The conventional image of a farmer that most people would conjure up is a burly white man with a scruffy beard, clad in a khaki shorts and shirt, knee high socks and a pair of brown boots.
But the Ronnie McKenzie that’s waiting to welcome Vutivi News outside his farm in Magaliesburg – doesn’t fit the bill.
McKenzie described himself as a boy from Jozi who woke-up one winter morning and decided that he was done with the hustle and bustle of the city life. So he packed his bags and made a life for him and partner Leeko Makoene in the quaint little town called Magaliesburg, about an hour’s drive from Johannesburg.
That was in June 2015.
Today he was a proud owner of a growing business – McKenzie Butchery and Abattoir. And he hasn’t looked back since.
McKenzie and Makoene are part of a rare breed of black South Africans who have opted to dump the city lights for the quiet and laid-back life of the farm.
“It’s a different lifestyle. It’s very relaxed. There isn’t a rat race and the hustle and bustle that comes with the life in the city,” McKenzie, who left his laundry business to pursue his dream told Vutivi News.
Soon he found that owning a farm was not for the faint hearted.
“When I started out, I did pig farming. That was always my dream. I grew up looking up to my grandfather who owned a pig farm in Lesotho. I got to understand piggery very well. But pig farming is not a cheap form of farming.”
From there, McKenzie ventured into other livestock like cows, sheep and goats. Makoene, who joined in 2016, concentrated on crop farming.
Their passion for farming has, however, taken on a new dimension.
They’ve now started lending a helping hand to other emerging black farmers, overwhelmed by the challenging world of farming.
They offer support to deal with technical problems and issues like staff management and administration work.
“As a farmer you have to do a lot of record keeping and sometimes, we find that people just need assistance with support in upscaling like dealing with their off-take agreements and access to markets,” Makoene explained.
The duo’s work had not ended there.
They’ve also gone on to launch Mzansi Agriculture Talk – a magazine used as a mouthpiece for emerging farmers.
“This is where we are taking on the likes of your Farmer’s Weekly, Landbou and other mags related to farming as they don’t really cover us. They don’t explore our frustrations, failings and successes as much as we would love them to. They try, but they don’t hit the spot,” Makoene explained.
The two fall under an organisation called FUSA – Farmers United of South Africa – where businesses such as Mzansi Agriculture Talk, Made with Rural, McKenzie Butchery, McKenzie Piggery and Abattoir as well as Ngomane’s Animal Feed all encompass.
McKenzie said their organisation has formed itself into some sort of black farmers “korporasie”.
“We’ve made sure and continue to ensure that we become a one stop shop, that anything that you need that has to do with farming, from offal, meat, eggs, honey, animal feed and seedlings you get,” he said.