National Farmer of the Year 2018: Pieter Graaff

Pieter Graaff Farmer of the year 2018

At a gala event held in Stellenbosch on Friday evening, November 16, 2018 the Agricultural Writers SA announced the winners of the 2018 National Farmer, New Entrant into Commercial Agriculture and Agriculturist of the Year. The main sponsors of the event were Bayer, Santam Agriculture, Sanlam and Rovic Leers.

The three national winners are:
The 2018 National Farmer of the Year is Pieter Graaff, a farmer from Ceres in the Western Cape.
The 2018 New Entrant into Commercial Agriculture is Leonard Mavhugu, a farmer from the former Ciskei region of the Eastern Cape.

The 2018 Agriculturist of the Year is Wandile Sihlobo, an agricultural economist from Gauteng.
Annually, the Agricultural Writers SA acknowledge outstanding achievements of commercial farmers, new entrants into commercial agriculture, and agriculturists. One of the aims of these awards is to give prominence to the role that farmers and agriculturists play in the agricultural sector in South Africa. It is also important to note that the award recipients also impact on the broader economy of the country and the southern African region.

This year’s candidates were:

Agriculturist of the Year

• Gauteng – Wandile Sihlobo
• Limpopo – Frits van Oudtshoorn
• Mpumalanga – Johann du Preez
• Western Cape – Prof. Eugene Cloete
New Entrant into Commercial Agriculture
• Eastern Cape – Leonard Mavhugu
• Gauteng – Mbali Nkabinde
• Western Cape – Wayne Mansfield

Farmer of the Year

• KwaZulu-Natal – Joseph Baynes Estate (Pty) Ltd (Myles van Deventer)
• Limpopo – Mahela Boerdery (Edward Vorster & seuns)
• North West – Johan Styger
• Western Cape – Pieter Graaff

“Every day we are met with the challenge of feeding a growing world population. With these awards, Agricultural Writers SA acknowledges the role that farmers and agriculturists play in the agricultural sector and in addressing food security. I am sure, that although we will not hear the words, future generations will thank you for your contributions and efforts to create an enabling environment that facilitated growth, success and food security in our lovely country,” said Magda du Toit, chairperson of the Agricultural Writers SA.

“The ultimate measure of a person is not what they do in moments of comfort and convenience, but rather what they do during times of challenge and crisis. That shows resilience and that is the match that ignites hope, excellence, innovation and forward thinking. And that is what all our regional winners managed to do.”

The 2018 Farmer of the Year in the Western Cape and National Farmer of the Year Pieter Graaff took over the farming business, Witzenberg Properties, just outside Ceres from his father Dr Jan Graaff, in 1984. Under his leadership five farming units were added to the original farm resulting in better productivity and an increase in the total turnover and profit. Pieter Graaff also expanded his farming business vertically into the complete value chain.

The six farming units are all situated in four unique climate zones within the Ceres area, spreading the climate risk of the farming business. Each of the six units are operated independently with its own infrastructure. The combined production of the separate farming units makes Pieter Graaff the single largest individual apple producer in South Africa.

Other farming activities includes the cultivation of pears, nectarines, peaches, cherries, wine grapes, vegetables, grain, forestry with a sawmill, cattle, sheep and a thoroughbred stud.
Since the onset of his career, Pieter Graaff has made the conscious decision to rather be “a small fish in a big ocean, as opposed to being “a big fish in a small pond”.

Unlike many other entrepreneurial farming companies, Witzenberg Properties chose to develop in partnership rather than alone. With this philosophy a business was built with far greater influence across the whole value chain.

Witzenberg Properties has a proud tradition of taking care of its people. It is an employer of choice within the greater Ceres area and renowned as a company where people work until retirement. It provides employee benefits beyond the minimum requirements, to provide every employee of Witzenberg Properties the opportunity to live a life of dignity.

Tru-Cape managing director, Roelf Pienaar says: “Tru-Cape Fruit Marketing was over the moon when our chairman Mr Pieter Graaff was confirmed as the Western Cape Farmer of the Year, earlier this month, but the news now that he has been awarded by the Agriculture Writer’s Association as South Africa’s National Farmer of the Year has filled us with pride at our close association with him. Our heartiest congratulations go to Pieter.

“As the largest exporter of South African apples and pears, Tru-Cape needs innovative growers like Pieter Graaff and others to maintain our competitive edge. His forward-thinking and business-like approach to growing the best South African fruit is a large part of our success.”


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