“Everybody thinks that farming is a lifestyle, but it’s not like that at all. Farming is about getting your hands dirty.” This is according to boxer, personal trainer and taxi driver turned farm owner, Tumelo Pedi.
The Bloemfontein-born founder and owner of Pedi Agri explored a number of careers before he finally decided to build a future in farming. He was based in Johannesburg for a number of years, but in 2015, he decided that there was more to life and he returned to the City of Roses. “When I came back to Bloem I had no idea where to go and what to do,” Tumelo recounts.
He then joined his brother in the taxi business as a driver. While hustling and bustling around the streets of Bloem, he came across a commonage. This piqued his interest. He approached the farmers involved and later joined the commonage. “I bought a cow, and then I bought two, while driving taxis,” he says.
This he did until 2017, when he decided to farm full-time. Tumelo recalls selling livestock on an open piece of land on Fridays and Saturdays. It made it easier for him to enter the speculation market, he says.
Today, Tumelo farms outside Bloemfontein on a farm that was awarded to him by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development. He plants lucerne and teff for feed for his livestock, in addition to farming cattle and sheep. He says he was shortlisted in 2019 for consideration by the Department, after applying on numerous occasions since he started farming.
“I was called in a couple of months later and told that I was the successful candidate and the farm was granted to me on a 30-year lease contract,” he says, smiling. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to have access to land and that I have been able to grow my business from there.”
Without patience and building relationships with neighbouring farmers, Pedi Agri would not have been where it is today.
For Tumelo, relationships are important because farmers who have been in the business for a while have a good idea of what works and what does not work. “You can’t go through all the mistakes. There are certain mistakes that are fatal in business that you don’t want to make; so, listening to people who have done things that did not work is quite important,” he says.
Patience allowed the business to grow before he could eventually harvest success.
“I just feel that a lot of people want to come in farming and they’re impatient about seeing progress. It doesn’t work that way. Farming equipment is expensive. Getting those things requires time. You not just going to wake up and buy a tractor.” Despite the challenges involved, Tumelo says agriculture will remain a growing industry that will be sustainable for generations.
“Input costs have become expensive. Diesel is expensive. Fertilizers have become expensive. It is an adjustment that we have to make as farmers, but we’re still doing well. Lamb/sheep prices are high now in comparison to where they were two or three months ago.”