Business and Economy

Former IT man hopes dairy farming is a cash cow

Dairy farmer Andile Mfingwana. Photo: Supplied

Andile Mfingwana never liked being stuck behind a desk. It therefore makes sense that he gave up a hotshot career as an IT executive to become a farmer.

Mfingwana’s interest in farming began as a child. He watched his father manage a herd of cattle on communal grazing land in Franklin, on the outskirts of KwaZulu-Natal’s breathtaking Drakensberg.

Mfingwana says he had always harboured dreams of retiring on a farm. But he soon realised that it might be too late for him to reap the benefits of working the land.

“I have always wanted to retire on a farm, but knew that at retirement I won’t have the energy to farm. Also, the government was buying a lot of land for restitution, which kept raising the price,” said the US-trained former IT specialist.

“I knew that farms will eventually not be affordable and had to make a move immediately if I wanted to farm.”

In 2009, Mfingwana started Ma-Ande Investments, named after his youngest son. That followed about a decade running his own IT firm with six former colleagues from tech giant IBM.

It turned out the experience of being entrepreneur came in handy when he took on the demanding world of farming. In 2010, Ma-Ande bought a farm, Nacht Wacht, in Kokstad.

Mfingwana says farming comes with many challenges. It requires a lot of capital, especially in the commercial sector, where established players don’t take kindly to competition. Then there are plagues such as drought, theft and finding a farm that hasn’t been run into the ground.

But that hasn’t dampened the 50-year-old’s enthusiasm for his childhood dream, even though the recent drought has put a spanner in the works. He has managed to bag clients like Dairy Belle and retailers for his products.

“The most common misconception about farming is that it is for the old and tired, but I think that is also changing,” Mfingwana said.

“Our plans are to eventually be a full dairy business, supplying all dairy products from maas to yoghurt to cheese, but the drought has taken us back many steps. We are currently trying to revive pastures.”

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