Managing Director of the Joseph Baynesfield Estate (Pty) Ltd between Pietermaritzburg and Richmond, Mr Myles van Deventer, was one of four finalists for the Farmer of the Year award announced at the annual Agricultural Writers of South Africa gala event in Stellenbosch towards the end of last year.

The Agricultural Writers of South Africa association recognises outstanding achievements in the categories of Farmer of the Year, a new entrant into commercial agriculture; and Agriculturist of the Year, which gives prominence to the role farmers and agriculturists play in the agricultural sector and in the broader economy of the country and southern African region.

‘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,’ said Agricultural Writers of South Africa Chairperson, Ms Magda du Toit. ‘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.’

Van Deventer, who said he was proud of the position the Estate was in to assist South Africa in accordance with the Will of Joseph Baynes, was pleased with the recognition the Baynesfield team received through the awards event.

Van Deventer has been Managing Director at the Baynesfield Estate since 2005 and has led the team responsible for the renewal and return to profitability of the enterprise.

He attended Maritzburg College and his passion for animal breeding led him to study for a BScAgric degree majoring in Animal Science at the then University of Natal, progressing to an MSc Agric in Animal Science cum laude before completing his MBA with distinction at the Heriot Watt University in Dubai.

He began his career as a sales representative for Taurus Co-op and then joined National Chicks as a trainee hatchery manager, working his way to managing director before joining Baynesfield Estate.

The Baynesfield Estate, situated on a 9300ha farm, is a diversified agricultural business, including a 2000-sow unit and a 900-cow beef herd together with a feedlot. The 1350ha of arable land is used to grow maize for a company mill producing 1 200 tons of feed a month for the piggery and cattle feedlot. There are also 200ha of avocado orchards.

The Estate, governed by a Board of Trustees which includes four UKZN alumni, strives to embrace new technologies to improve its biological productivity and mitigates risk by ensuring the business has scale, is integrated and diversified. It prioritises conservation of threatened grassland species and is a custodian of the Blue Swallow and Oribi.

The Estate maintains an important working relationship with the University with research taking place there in a variety of disciplines. In 2017, the Board initiated sponsorship of an annual award to recognise Agricultural and Environmental Science Innovation in the work of senior students at UKZN.

Sharing his approach to management, van Deventer said, ‘It’s impossible for a person to do everything and know everything so always try to surround yourself with great managers and good consultants and insist on good performance.’

Looking ahead, van Deventer believes that important areas for development in agriculture include water, animal welfare, environmental issues, traceability, land reform and challenges that farmers will have in uplifting their local community.

Words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied by Myles van Deventer