Some of South Africa’s top contributors to agriculture were recognised at the 2022 Agricultural Writers SA Awards on Friday, 11 November 2022. The annual event salutes those that work hard to promote sustainable farming enterprises, elevate food security, support rural economies, and nurture the image of agriculture in South Africa.

The 2022 awards are sponsored by FNB with co-sponsors Bayer, Syngenta, Distinct, Grain SA and Van Loveren. For the first time, the AWSA awards ceremony was hosted at Grain SA’s Nampo Park near Bothaville in the Free State. “We deliberately chose to skip the city lights”, said Liza Bohlmann, chairperson of Agricultural Writers South Africa. “We chose this venue to keep the focus on the heartland of the summer grain production area. As the venue of the most significant agricultural show in the country, Grain SA’s Nampo Park exchanged its work boots and overalls tonight for shiny shoes and suits to host the AWSA Awards.

“We decided to go back to our most basic agricultural production roots and to the commodities that underpin food security in South Africa: Maize, soybeans, and sunflower.

“The grain and oilseed produced in the interior of South Africa contribute enormously to our selfsufficiency and ability to export food to neighbouring countries and other parts of the world. Our summer grain production area greatly supports SA’s position as a leader in African agriculture. For me, the most beautiful part of the maize triangle lies in the fact that this is where the country’s food security ‘safety net’ is firmly anchored.”

Awarding Excellence

The AWSA awards create an opportunity to celebrate excellence in agriculture by means of announcing the AWSA Farmer of the Year, Agriculturist of the Year, and New Entrant to Commercial Farming. “This is not a competition, but about recognition. The awards are made through a nomination process that allows our members to shine a light on ambassadors in agriculture,” said Bohlmann at the event.

“These awards are made to persons who have made it their life’s work to contribute to the sustainability of agriculture in South Africa. All the nominees are already seen as ambassadors of the sector and leaders in own right. Their influence on their teams and the larger agricultural community and agricultural economy contributed to them being here tonight.

“We salute each one of the provincial and national winners, may the recipients of the national awards use this audience and platform to further the cause of agriculture.”

Recognising the adaptability of the sector, Dawie Maree, head of information and marketing at FNB Business, Agriculture, reminded the industry that change is constant and necessary. “We need change in South Africa on various levels but change also needs us. If you do not change, nothing will,” he challenged guests at the awards event.

FNB was the main sponsor of this event hosted by the AWSA – a not-for-profit association. “We are extremely grateful to all our sponsors for their unwavering support to make this event possible as well as the visit to the Farmer of the Year that will follow in the first quarter of 2023.

From the left is Duncan Masiwa, Andries Wessels, Seeds Product Development and Commercial Lead
at Syngenta, Tshilidzi, Everest and Wandeme Matshidzula, and Liza Bohlmann.

Special Recognition

“Jy is goud,” said Duncan Masiwa, master of ceremonies, as Japie Grobler left the stage after receiving a Special Award for his contribution to agriculture. Japie was honoured for the ongoing impact he has made in organised agriculture, primary agriculture and beyond of the many years he has been a well-known face in the industry. During his more than 45 years in agriculture he was chairman of the boards of, among other, Sampi, Nampo and Grain SA. He was also instrumental in shaping the Agri Securitas Trust Fund and how it has contributed to improving rural safety for all. In response to the award, Japie thanked the members of Agricultural Writers SA for the important role they play in the success of South African Agriculture. He challenged agricultural writers to go to even further lengths to do intensive research and investigative work in their daily work. To promote this, he announced his sponsorship of a competition (that will initially run for 5 years) to award the best investigative agricultural article. More details on this competition will be announced soon.

National Winners

ALS Group (Agri Division) – Agricultural Writers SA Farmer of the Year

Congratulations to our KZN and National Agricultural Writers SA Farmer of the Year. The nomination of this category aims to evaluate candidates first of all according to their sustainability. The main factors used for adjudication are maintaining and increasing biological productivity, mitigating risk to ensure greater security, maintenance and management of natural resources, economic sustainability, and social acceptability and justification.

Sustainability refers to the farming method and management that will enable the farmer to achieve success in all fields and allow them to continue farming successfully while using the land and farming enterprise in a manner that will allow their legacy to continue with these operations.

The ALS Group farms on 60 000 ha across four provinces. A total of 1 000 ha is under pivot irrigation and 3 500 ha is dry land farming. The group owns 10 000 livestock and game and offers employment to 780 families.

The group’s agri-section consists of four pillars:

ALS V8 (ALS V8 Grain, ALS V8 Beefmaster, ALS V8 Earthworks, ALS V8 Baling, ALS V8 Silage, and Ingogo Mills)

ALS V8 is managed by Cas Joubert; his children Arno, Anke, and Gerrit; his children-in-law Eon, Nadine, and Romé; and his brother-in-law Danie Bester.

The diversified business includes the ALS Beefmaster Stud, commercial Beefmaster cattle, crops, a maize mill, agricultural contractor services, and the rental of earthmoving machinery.

From left is Dawie Maree, Thys Joubert, Cas Joubert, Gerrit Joubert, Arno Joubert and Liza Bohlmann.

ALS Farming (ALS Grain, ALS Bovelder, and ALS Agri)

ALS Farming is managed by Colin Steyn, Thys (jnr), and Tanya Joubert, under the mentorship of their father, Thys (snr). They farm white and yellow maize, soya beans, wheat, lucerne, and planted pastures and have their own silos, dryers, and sifting equipment.

ALS Bovelders is the cattle entity under the management of Barry Viljoen. ALS Agri focuses on agricultural contractor services such as the building of roads and earth dams, installation of underground drainage, levelling of land, and rental of earthmoving equipment.

ALS Agri North West

ALS Agri North West, managed by Johan Janse van Rensburg, his wife Hanneli, and father-in-law Nick Arnoldi, consists of a diversified farming operation of 3 500 ha near Potchefstroom, with game farming, eco-tourism, Dohne merino and Meatmaster sheep, Bovelder cattle, and pecan nuts.

ALS Agri Northern Cape

ALS Agri Northern Cape at Upington, under the management of Kassie Janse van Rensburg and his son Harm, includes sheep, cattle, and game farming as well as a hunting enterprise, construction work, and the rental of earthmoving machinery.

Tshilidzi ‘Chilli’ Matshidzula – Agricultural Writers SA New Entrant to Commercial Agriculture

Congratulations to our National Agricultural Writers SA New Entrant to Commercial farming hailing from the Eastern Cape. This category is aimed at farmers with less than 10 years’ experience as commercial producers.

A boy from Limpopo embraced the support of a good mentor and started managing a dairy farm in the Eastern Cape. Tshilidzi Matshidzula (33) is going from strength to strength and the farm continues to grow, despite the lack of government support.

As a native of Thohoyandou in Limpopo and a graduate of the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in Pretoria, Chilli ended up in the Eastern Cape. He took over the management of the dairy on Little Barnet 5km from Alexandria in September 2005 at the age of 18.

He became a 40% shareholder in Matshibele (Pty) Ltd, which owned the farm. At that time the farm was milking about 450 cows. This dairy was awarded the prestigious Mangold Trophy from the Bathurst Conservation Committee in 2016. In the same year, Chilli was named the Eastern Cape’s Young Farmer of the Year.

In 2019 Oakleaf Agri and Chilli ventured into a new partnership together in starting a new dairy, Mountain Park, in Stutterheim. Mountain Park has more than 1 000 milk cows.

In 2020, Chilli was the winner of the Milk Producers Organization (MPO) and Nedbank’s Stewardship award. Today Chilli is a 5% shareholder in the farm with an opportunity to grow his shareholding to 10%. Chilli serves on the board of the Eastern Cape Milk Producers’ Organisation as well as on the committee of the Alexandria Dairy Study Group. He is very involved in the training of Agricultural students. He is married to Everest who is also very involved on the farm.

His passion for dairy farming is reflected in his excellent farm management practices and attention to detail, which includes extensive consultation with experts and peers to maintain best practice. He has extraordinary vision and certainly knows what is needed for future sustainability.

Pieter Bruwer – Agricultural Writers SA Agriculturalist of the Year

This year’s agriculturalist of the year award placed the focus on extension services in agriculture and the massively important role of disseminating knowledge throughout the agricultural industry.

Congratulations to Pieter Bruwer, our Mpumalanga provincial and now national Agricultural Writers South Africa agriculturalist of the year.

Pieter Bruwer was born with a love for agriculture. He grew up with his parents on their mixed farming operation in the Wakkerstroom district, which he later took over from 1989 to 2012.

Since 2016, Pieter has been working at Langfontein Seeds in Wakkerstroom, as an extension officer and agronomist. At an early stage, Pieter realised the value of healthy soil and crop management principles and has since achieved recognition as an expert in the field of sustainable plant nutrition, soil management, and crop protection. Pieter conducts research on a wide range of subjects including tillage, cultivar and stand tests, fertilisation, and crop protection on various crops.

He advises farmers and land-owners across the entire spectrum of agriculture, such as gardeners, small-scale farmers, emerging farmers, and commercial farmers. Pieter believes it is important to adapt the transfer of his knowledge according to the unique needs of his clients in order for them to fully understand and be able to apply it in practice. Pieter is accomplished in the field of sustainable agriculture, where his farming experience sets him apart as an extension officer with a particular ability to bring theory and practice together.

He applies the highest principles of counselling ethics because he maintains that pure scientific results that are practice-orientated are the only way in which food can be sustainably produced.

Pieter is theory and practice driven. He can be described as an extension officer who has his nose in his books at night and who leaves his footprints in the farmer’s fields during the day.

Journalist and Communicator Awards

From the left is Liza Bohlmann, Pieter Bruwer and Duncan Masiwa.

During the event members of the Agricultural Writers SA were honoured for their role in communicating issues of interest to the agricultural sector and aiding in responsible communication of the sector.

Awarding the Bayer Technical article award, Bohlmann emphasised the unique skill required to write a good technical agricultural article. “It is about presenting technical information in a way that everyone can understand, without losing the scientific essence,” she explained.

Elriza Theron of CropLife South Africa explained the importance of responsible reporting, especially when it comes to articles about crop protection and plant biotechnology industries. “These products must be developed, sold, and used responsibly. It is as important that it is written about responsibly.

This is what the CropLife South Africa Crop Protection Article and Biotechnology Article awards wants to promote and reward.

Dawie Maree shared his excitement about the FNB Communicator Award. “The competition is now in its fourth year, and it is amazing to see the passion for agriculture in each of the entries,” he said.

“The entrepreneurship of agricultural writers is unbelievable,” said Mike van den Bergh of BKB as he announced the winner in the BKB Photo Competition.

The winners of the respective categories are:

CropLife SA Crop Protection Article Award: Magda du Toit

CropLife SA Biotechnology Article Award: Mariana Purnell

FNB Communicator of the Year Award:

Print Category: Elriza Theron
TV & Audio: Claudia van Zyl
Social Media & Online: Thabi Modutoanee

BKB Photo Competition:
Agricultural Photographer of the Year: Willem van der Berg
Agricultural Photo of the Year: Willem van der Berg

Bayer Technical Article Award:
1. Charl van Rooyen (Landbouweekblad)
2. Petru Fourie and Christiaan Vercuil (SA Grain Magazine)
3. Valerie Cilliers (SA Grain Magazine)