Meet dairy farmer Maizie Vermaak (MV) from Rosenhof Farm. Maizie has to be one of the most amiable people I have come across in my profession. Having known her for the past 4 years, I felt it necessary to show you a glimpse of her world, both from a farming and personal point of view. When Maizie isn’t working on the farm, she enjoys the outdoors and getting involved in her community. Like many South Africans, she loves her sport and a good braai. She also finds joy in spending time with her family and friends.
Maizie is one of the few female dairy farmers in South Africa and her family farm is based in Oyster Bay in the Eastern Cape. I had a wonderful opportunity to ask her a couple of questions regarding her life experiences and of course, farming. Below is a small glimpse into Maizies world!
PP: When did you start farming and did you grow up on a farm?
MV: I moved back to the farm in 2013 after I had completed my undergraduate studies at Stellenbosch University and yes, I grew up on Rosenhof!
PP: Why did you want to become a farmer?
MV: It has always been my dream to farm. When I was young, my father farmed with beef cattle and sheep, and whenever possible I was with him in the bakkie and in the veld.
PP: Are there any differences between your farm now and your farm when you were a kid?
MV: Yes, when I was young, the farm was an extensive beef cattle and sheep farm, and now we milk and have more beef cattle than before, and still have a few sheep as well. There are a lot more cultivated areas on the farm now, only minimum tillage practices are implemented and we build a dam and installed irrigation on the farm.
PP: What is the biggest change you have encountered during your years of farming?
MV: The change from only dryland farming to having irrigation as well, and the building of a rotary parlour dairy.
PP: How have advances in technology such as machinery, genetics, or chemicals, affected your farm? You can give an example
MV: A lot more cows are milked, and a lot more milk is produced. A larger milking parlour, with a rotary table, and the Alpro management system has made it possible to milk more cows, and with the use of good genetics, the production per cow has increased.
PP: Have you observed changes in the number, size, and type of farms that are found in your immediate locale? What is your attitude toward any trends you may have noticed?
MV: The farms are getting bigger. With the advantages of increased scale, increasing input cost and lower margins of profit that we work with, smaller dairy farmers struggle to make a living. I think there is still a place for small-scale farmers, but then it has to be done on an effective and productive unit, without any large debt.
PP: In another world, where you were not a farmer, what work do you think you would do?
MV: Becoming a vet was one of my ideas at school, but the length of studying and Pretoria put me off.
PP: What are the most difficult and most satisfying aspects of farming for you?
MV: The most difficult is definitely working with people…trying to keep people motivated, positive and productive. The most satisfying aspect for me is to see improvement and growth. A seed which germinates well and grows, cows whose udders improve and give more milk, calves which stand and drink within an hour of being born, and farm employees who make a better livelihood for themselves and their families.
PP: What advice would you give to any young person interested in getting into farming?
MV: Go for it! It is most definitely not easy, and not at all as many people might perceive, where you just drink coffee, sitting on the porch with the money pouring in. It is hard work, but you are in nature every day and experience the wonder of Creation.
Well, there you have it, from Maizie; she encourages any young people out there who have a passion to become a farmer one day to go for it. It is not easy, but well worth it!
In her free time, Portia loves catching up on House of Cards and The Walking Dead series. The latter she says she finds it fascinating how a dead decomposed organic material can still be conscious, this actually breaks all rules of microbiology according to her. When she’s not watching that, she enjoys watching motivational videos from Ted, especially ones by her idols Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Brene Brown.
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