Sweet recognition for young Eshowe sugar farmer
09 October 2019 | Web Article Number: ME201916593
ESHOWE sugarcane farmer, Simon D’Aubrey has been announced as the winner of the 2019 Kwanalu Young Farmer of the Year award for 2019.
The competition is open to farmers under the age of 40, male or female who are full members of their province’s agricultural unions.
D’Aubrey, the third consecutive generation of his family to farm on Arcadia Estate in Entumeni in Eshowe, joined the family farming business in 2013, and today is the sole director and is a 33% shareholder in the property company, a 100% shareholder in the operational company and is responsible for all farm operations of both Arcadia Estate and his other neighbouring farms. He holds a B-Tech Degree in Agriculture and a Degree in Property Development, with Honours in Construction Management.
Describing himself as “not your typical farmer”, D’Aubrey has travelled extensively and worked in many places around the world before settling, at the age of 32, on the farm he grew up on, together with his wife Emily and their twin daughters.
Ninety percent of his farming enterprise is sugarcane, with eight percent dedicated to timber, and one percent to contracting and bottled water, firewood and cash crops on fallow lands respectively. D’Aubrey is currently working on diversifying the business’ income stream away from sugarcane to alternate crops. He also runs an indigenous tree nursery together with his brother on the farm.
“The challenge, and the goal as a farmer today, is to remain relevant, while maintaining positive cash flows and ensuring bank balances remain healthy. Pending a cannabis licence to grow hemp for CBD oil, we are ready to plant our first hemp crop. We are also currently running a test plot on organic lemons to determine viability and have 8ha of avos on order for 2021,” he said.
“We are focused on becoming more mechanized, for example, by restricting cane lands to the flat areas on the farms, timber to only on slopes over 30 degrees and high-value crops in close proximity to water and good soils.”
With the philosophy, “be kind to your land, honour your employees and be open to change”, D’Aubrey said he places strong emphasis on preserving the land for future generations and sustainable practices, and manages his farming methods by treading lightly on the natural environment and treating soils with care.
“We work with maintaining the eco-systems we currently have and aim to improve them with time through the use of less harmful insecticides and weedicides, the removal of alien vegetation and the re-planting of indigenous trees; for our soils we maintain our terrace banks and waterways and if there is soil erosion or wash, this is dealt with immediately, generally with advice from the SASRI Extension Officer. All replant cane fields are currently being pulled back 5m from major water courses and wetlands are being rehabilitated in the valley areas of the farms,” D’Aubrey said.
He will go on to represent Kwanalu and all KZN farmers in the Toyota SA/Agri SA National Young Farmer of the Year Competition 2019 where he will compete against top farmers from all nine provinces, in an effort to secure the much sought after title, as well as a brand new Toyota Hilux Single Cab.