Meet Giyani Butternut boss turns family farm into a profitable business

LOCAL NEWS

By Staff Reporter

GIYANI-After studying farm management, Deon Mthombeni returned home to grow his family’s business. Through hard work and saving, he transformed their small plot into a thriving farm. Today, VD Enterprise supplies butternuts, chillies, and more to local markets and major retailers.

Deon Mthombeni took the reins of his family’s humble subsistence farm with a goal and vision in mind. When he promised his father that he would scale their production significantly, he meant it. And that is exactly what he did.

“My parents always farmed just enough to feed the family and sell a bit to our neighbours and community members,” Mthombeni remembers. “But I had a mission to grow the business further from there so I could make a living out of it.”

What started as a single hectare grew to 7.5 hectares under cultivation, with another 4.5 hectares available for future growth.

Mthombeni now harvests between 6,000 and 8 400 butternuts per cycle.

“I plant butternut twice a year. My planting starts in December, and we harvest around April. I plant again in mid-June.

“So far, I plant about one hectare, and I harvest 500 to 700 10kg bags of butternut, but it varies at times.”

Their farm based in Giyani, Limpopo is operated under their business name, VD Enterprise. Their clientele ranges from community members, to Pick n Pay, the Tswane Market, and the Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market.

Before running the farm, Mthombeni studied atMashamba Tvet College in 2016 where completed his diploma in farm management.

He did experimental learning at Dovheni Primary Agricultural Cooperative for 18 months as part of his studies.

After completing tasks as part of his experiential learning at a cooperative farm, he didn’t rest. He sought extra jobs like picking produce and planting.

He saved all the money he earned until he became a regular worker. “It wasn’t a lot of money, about R70 to R90 and on a good day R 100.”

This money supplemented groceries, and he used his parents’ grocery and transport funds to buy and store seedlings. By the end of his experiential learning, he had saved enough to buy butternut and green bean seedlings, fertiliser, and pesticides, fully prepared to start planting back home

Ever since 2020, I have been focusing on farming. It was always my plan to run the farm, hence my interest in plant production. I had the background but I needed to acquire more knowledge to be able to grow the business further,” he explains.

While butternuts are VD Enterprise’s main crop, they also produce chillies and cabbages. Sometimes they produce beetroot and onion as well.

“With the chillies, we harvest twice a month and get about 80 boxes per harvest. I grow them for the Johannesburg and Tswane markets.

“The profit sustains the farm, allowing me to pay workers, buy fuel, and purchase seeds,” says Mthombeni. If prices drop, he plants chillies only once a year.

He plants green onions once a year, around January and February, to supplement his other produce. These are sold to local markets, community members, and Pick n Pay, grown on half a hectare.

Beetroot is a once-off crop for local markets, similar to his green peppers, which are also sold to the Tshwane and Johannesburg markets.

The plan for the next five years is to grow and expand farming operations to 10 more hectares, shares Mthombeni.

“I have not grown to use the whole plot because I am limited by access to water although we do have boreholes. But every crop I’m growing, I’m planning to increase every year and the only thing holding me back is access to water.

“We have tried to drill more boreholes and only two of them can run for an hour. The water is not much and we have to turn off the pump,” he says.

Currently, he relies on one borehole for water but it won’t suffice for an additional three hectares, especially with the current hot climate, Mthombeni explains.

He sees himself becoming a regular supplier to local markets and solving his access to water to cater for his expansion.

Seeing the impact he’s making in his community by reducing unemployment is what drives Mthombeni to pursue his passion.

Depending on the workload intensity, he hires about five or six workers to assist on the farm.

Every time he looks at his seasonal workers, he finds comfort in knowing that they can provide for their families with the money they earn working on his farm.

“It gives me much pleasure to not only produce food but contribute to job security because the people I work with can have employment on my farm.”

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