When well-respected Sasolburg farmer Tharina Terblanche fell in love with the latest combine harvester from Fendt, she turned to Bronwyn Cilliers, General Manager of Valtrac in Parys, to procure Fendt IDEAL 7 and Fent IDEAL 8 to maximise productivity on her soya bean and maize operation. A qualified mechanical engineer, Bronwyn oversees a family business that imports and distributes tractors and agricultural implements.
Both women have forged a unique path for themselves in the traditionally male-dominated farming community. In celebration of Women’s Day, AGCO Africa talks to Tharina and Bronwyn about their careers, the challenges they have faced, what keeps them passionate about agriculture, and how the latest technology from Fendt is pioneering ‘smart’ farming in the industry.
“International Women’s Day has been established to give credit to women all over the world, with South Africa further reinforcing this important day on 9 August. Women have worked, and some still work, under the pressure of being female. It is our responsibility to make women exercise the opportunities they have in this world,” says Tharina.
She was born and raised on the same family farm she owns today and where she started farming on her own as a woman in 1987. Since then, she has grown her farm substantially from 1 200 ha to over 7 500 ha of arable land to date.
Bronwyn, on the other hand, grew up on a dairy farm. “If you have a dairy farmer as a father, you grow up being around animals and farm implements,” she says. She never thought farming would be a career option. “I focused on my studies and obtained my engineering degree.”
However, after she started her own family, Bronwyn realised what value the agricultural industry had to offer in terms of community and business. “After more than ten years in the business, I have not looked back once. Agriculture is not an easy industry to be in and poses many challenges. You need to know what you are talking about. If you do not, ask as many questions until you fully understand what is going on.”
Tharina says she did not grow up with the idea that men and women are innately different. “It was never hard for me to be a woman in a man’s world,” she explains. She has four brothers and even played rugby with them as a child.
Even in a male-dominated industry like farming, Tharina did not feel out of place, although she admits she had to work a bit harder sometimes to be acknowledged. “I always gave it my all, and by giving it my all I was accepted.”
Her message to women contemplating a similar career path is to have determination and simply persevere. “Yes, it is hard. It was hard for me, too. Nevertheless, just keep going. At the end of the day, all you can do is believe and trust in yourself.”
Bronwyn’s advice to women contemplating a career in the agricultural industry is, firstly, to find out what it is about and where their interest and passion lies. “If you find it is truly where your heart is, learn as much as you possibly can. If you cannot go to university or college, do your own research.”
She concludes: “Knowledge is power. If you know what is going on, then you will have the self-confidence to stand up for yourself and be heard. People will then listen to you and respect you. This will make your way forward that much easier.”