The Toyota/Agri SA New Harvest and SA Young Farmer of the Year awards were presented to Whernit Dirks and JP van den Berg respectively, at a gala event in Kempton in October 2018. Each winner drove away in a brand new Toyota Hilux Single Cab workhorse after the awards ceremony.

However, the event is about so much more than winning. More importantly, it focuses attention on the role played by farmers in the South African economy. In the words Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing Calvyn Hamman: “The truth is, I don’t know of any business that is as resilient as farming. In fact, this is one of the few industries that is completely future-proof… people will always need food. Agriculture needs to form an important part of the economic future of South Africa – it has to!

“Of the 9 700 000 South Africans currently employed, a staggering 900 000 are people employed in the farming industry. The challenges are obvious, but the value and opportunities in agriculture are too big to be ignored.”

Hamman says Toyota is particularly proud to be associated with the New Harvest of the Year awards as this category recognises farmers from previously disadvantaged backgrounds: “The ultimate test for farmers – even when finances and weather patterns aren’t an issue – is observing and applying sustainable agricultural practices. We need to make sure that what is taken out of the earth is put back in, so that natural resources are preferred for future generations.”

This year’s New Harvest of the Year winner, Whernit Dirks, farms with wheat, pastoral grasses, sheep and barley in the Bergrivier region of the Western Cape Province. The other New Harvest finalist hailing from the Western Cape is Joseph Hendricks whose speciality is growing apples and pears in Grabouw.

The Gauteng representative was Melusi Ntshangasem who farms with maize, soybeans and Merino sheep, and Ester Mhlongo of Mpumalanga who farms with macadamias, avocados, cattle, goats, lawn grass, fish, poultry as well as tortoises.

KwaZulu-Natal was represented by vegetable farmer Sooveir Rajkumar who produces green peppers, brinjals, green beans, spinach, fresh coriander, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and lettuce.