KwaZulu-Natal’s Agricultural Union, Kwanalu has announced the much anticipated winner of the 2015 KZN Young Farmer of the Year at its Annual Congress held at the Royal Show grounds in Pietermaritzburg today.
33 year old Tongaat farmer, Anthony Goble, was awarded the provincial title of KZN Young Farmer of the Year at a ceremony attended by Kwanalu members, fellow farmers and agricultural-industry leaders from all over KZN.
Anthony will go on to compete, for the national 2015 Young Farmer of the Year title, against top candidates from all nine provinces, in a bid to secure the much sought after title, as well as a brand new Toyota Hilux Single Cab. The winner of the 2015 Young Farmer of the Year will be announced on 22 October, at the Agri SA Young Farmer of the Year event to be held at the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre in Johannesburg.
“This year’s entries saw an exceptional standard of young farmers come to the fore – a proud example of the vast farming talent we have in KZN,” said CEO, Sandy La Marque, speaking at the event attended by members, industry leaders and multiple farmer’s association representatives from all over KZN, as well as guest speakers Justice Malala (award-winning journalist), Chantell Illbury (best-selling author and scenario strategist) and Eric Tocknell (founder of the Wimpy Restaurants Group).
The Young Farmer of the Year competition is open to farmers under the age of 35, male or female who are full members of their provinces agricultural unions. The judging and evaluation of the farmers and their agricultural practices, takes place at provincial level with the applicants being evaluated on all aspects of their business including their overall vision for the future of their farm/ business. The main features on which young farmers are judged is their management/ business philosophy as well as the technical competence with which their philosophy is applied.
Antony, who inherited Evelyn Park Farm after his father, Neil Goble, passed away in 2000, is the fifth generation of Gobles to farm in Tongaat. Aside from the 280ha sugarcane family farm, Anthony runs another five separate farms including 430ha of land under cane and another 340ha that he leases from land reform beneficiaries, bringing the total area under sugarcane to 1 050ha, with 300ha of natural bush.
Since running the family business, Anthony has diversified into bananas (12ha) and macadamias (5ha), as well as developing seed cane as a third source of income. He also leases out 20ha per year to local madumbi growers as part of a crop rotation scheme.
“By putting in new varieties of cane on land with restored soil health, we have been able to improve our re-plant system and grow seed cane well enough to sell,” said Anthony.
With diversification, often comes a complication of different structures and systems. To this end, modern technology schemes that deliver information straight to his mobile, help drive increased efficiency of the business and allow Anthony to have daily hands-on control over all farm activities. The farm employs 166 staff with five managers, whom he meets with every morning at 4am. Anthony believes that by empowering his management team and mentoring them on a day-to-day basis he has been able to build a strong staff hierarchy that works. Both his mother Katheryn and wife, Tanya are involved with the day-to-day running of the business – assisting with office work.
At just 33, Antony has secured a position of leadership in the local farming and sugar industry as well as forming and maintaining good relationships with the local communities and land claimants. He is the Chairman of the Gledhow Farmer’s Association and the director of the Gledhow Sugar Company. He is also vice-chairman of the Upper Tongaat Security Committee and is the founding member of the Upper Tongaat Study Group.
Anthony’s approach to, and involvement in, land reform and restitution reveals a progressive and optimistic attitude – and one that can be show case for the future of KZN agriculture.
“I want to live here for the next 30 to 40 years and so do my children, so I have to get involved and work with the communities to find a way that will work for everyone involved,” said Anthony.
“I have had some good and some bad experiences with the system of ‘lease and mentorship’ – it works well if both parties are interested in learning and developing, so I will keep looking for the people and opportunities that fit the mould,” he said.
On receiving his award, Anthony specifically thanked his family for their guidance and support over the years.
“I would like to dedicate my achievement to my late father, and thank my parents especially for all of the opportunities they afforded me. I would also like to thank my wife, Tanya, for her unwavering support, as well as the many people who have mentored and guided me along the way. I am very proud to have been given this award over such strong candidates. Well done to both Russell (James) and Kurt (Stock),” he said.
“I am looking forward to the national competition and the chance to gauge myself against the top farmers in South Africa and hope that I can do KZN proud,” said Anthony.