The New Farmer (TNF)

25 07 2011

“Have you grown cabbages before?” I asked The New Farmer.
“No”, he replied.
“Well, what type of soil will you be growing them on?”.
“Red”, replied TNF.
“Well, that’s good” I replied. “Heavy soils are much easier for hortiuclture”. “Have you taken a soil sample?” I continued hopefully. No he had not and he seemed a bit non-plussed as to what a soil sample actually was.

TNF had come into my office this morning having paid a deposit to for us to grow 35,000 cabbage seedlings for a hectare so I felt obliged to part with information, and who knows, the good word might get around and we certainly need the business right now.

“Tell me about the irrigation” he said as the “Brief Guide to Growing Cabbages” was printing from my computer.
“Right”, I thought, “this one is really clueless”, but I launched into a concise description of an over-head irrigation system. My knowledge of irrigation systems is a bit sketchy but next to his I was a veritable genius. I covered the principle of 100% overlapping patterns and touched on water replacement, emphasizing that cabbages must NEVER be stressed. I looked at TNF’s totally blank face and thought I should steer clear of Class A pans, evapotranspiration and crop factors – none of it rocket science but nevertheless necessary to grow a good crop of just about anything.

I emphasized that the 5 page guide I was giving him was just a very brief introduction and that there were BOOKS out there on the subject. TNF didn’t seem to be deterred and I didn’t want to put him off! My parting advice to him was to split the order into 2 parts 2 weeks apart so that he could get the system going a bit easier but the foreman told me later he wanted to press ahead with the full order as a one-off.

New Farmers are easily spotted in Zimbabwe. They often have town jobs so go out to the farm on the weekend in their de rigeur felt hats and twin cab pickup trucks. The farms are inevitably “acquired” from white commercial farmers and as such they don’t have to be viable straight away – they certainly aren’t paying off the banks for the land. They also seem to think that farming is easy, after all, the white commercial farmers made lots of money didn’t they? That of course is some way from the truth; a very small percentage of the whites did make good money but many did not and plenty went broke too. Nor is farming easy in Zimbabwe. Soils are not good (heavily weathered) by world standards and the climate is fickle so horticulture especially is a non-starter without a good irrigation system. The electricity supply is even more unreliable than the weather so diesel pumps are a necessity which makes the irrigation expensive. Horticulture is demanding anywhere in the world and definitely not a branch of agriculture one would want to “have a go” at. Especially in Zimbabwe!

I recommended to TNF that he go next door to the research farm and have a look at their irrigation system but he did not seem over enthusiastic. Maybe he was not the enthusiastic sort or maybe he thought he could work it out for himself. I doubt he will be back for a second crop.



2 responses

29 07 2011
Big Blister

Makes my job look so easy!

30 07 2011

I always try to give good advice in the hope of gaining a long term customer who just might turn into a good farmer. I do sometimes have to quiet my conscience when I know they have got a farm by less than honest means! In this case good advice might have been “Don’t waste your money and my time” but like I said, I do need the money right now!

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