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Small steps, giant leaps...vegetable production gives farmer new lease on life

2021-11-09  Charles Tjatindi

Small steps, giant leaps...vegetable production gives farmer new lease on life
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A chance encounter turned into a lifetime passion for Babette Taljaard, who had no idea she would one day become a full-time grower of vegetables and live to love it. 

Following a premature hiatus from the university due to ill-health in 2019, Babette found her silver lining in growing vegetables – a field she never dreamed of. 

Farm Veldduin in the Grootfontein area is where Taljaard carries out her passion, and she does not intend to stop anytime soon. 

Growing up on the farm, it was almost certain that Taljaard would one day lead her own farming enterprise, but she had no idea she would veer off the traditional livestock production that her parents are into. 

Her journey to the current day takes her back to 2019 when she bought her first 10 sheep ewes – a Dorper-Van Rooy-Persian mix. 

But it was in 2020 that she found her true calling – vegetable production. 

This came after a lessee on her parent’s farm asked if Taljaard could help her with planting tomatoes on a piece of land she had demarcated for the purpose. 

She agreed and realised her underlying passion for vegetable production.

“I thought it would only be for one season and then it’ll die off – but during that season, the bug bit me, and I experienced such a passion for growing veggies. Yes, I come from a farming family, but not a vegetable production one.  

“My family farmed in various divisions such as cattle, sheep and goats. They now farm with game for trophy hunting as well as burning charcoal and making firewood,” she said. 

To her tomatoes, she added green peppers, jalapeños, cabbages and many more, as she got her own one-hectare piece of land on the farm for the purpose. 

But her favourite remains tomatoes. 

“I prefer tomatoes because it’s a lot of fun to experiment with and the easiest for me to grow successfully,” she said.  Taljaard harvests between seven to 10 tonnes of tomatoes, six to 10 tonnes of cabbages and about 722 kg of green peppers. 

The biggest markets for her products at this stage are streets markets at Tsumeb, Grootfontein, Rundu and Otjiwarongo. 

She said the uptake of her product in the market has been encouraging and has kept her going. 

Taljaard has, however, not given up on her livestock farming and still keeps her sheep. 

She noted that she, however, needs to learn more about unique sheep farming methods that would drive her profits up. 

At the moment, she said, she has been taking it one step at a time and using every available opportunity to learn more. 

“I am not particular about what sheep breed I farm with for now, as I am still learning this side of farming – and I am in no rush to perfect it. Surely, with time, I will be able to place myself better in terms of what is needed and how to zoom in on livestock production,” she said. 

She added that a lack of knowledge, in addition to capital limitations, have set back a lot of aspiring farmers, but she remains true to her course and intends to farm through it all. 

Taljaard advised aspiring farmers not to “overthink it, or underestimate your worth” in any given scenario, as doing so could result in a farmer veering off the path and the business eventually crumbling. 

“Don’t overthink it – just do it. Never underestimate yourself. Get the needed knowledge – you don’t need to know all the ins and outs – and save for the needed capital. It is best to start small and build yourself,” she said. 

2021-11-09  Charles Tjatindi

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