What we do
Due to the generous support of a number of institutions, including the Underberg Farmers’ Association, the No Till Club and The Saville Foundation it is possible for Future Farmers Foundation to send these young men and women overseas for practical experience, and as the interns are paid good salaries while they are working overseas, they are required to pay back the cost of sending them there. This money is then used to send another intern who, in turn, pays it back. A single donation could potentially send up to three interns overseas every year. It should take about four months for an intern to pay back costs, which include airfare, visas and so forth. That means that whatever is earned during the remaining 8 months can be saved or spent as the student wishes, including travelling in the host country.
After the apprentices have returned from overseas, they have reached a level of maturity that equips them for further study. They are encouraged to do UNISA courses in agribusiness and economics. Most of their farming skills are learned on the farms from the farmers who employ them. Farmers know what these young apprentices should be able to deal with on a day to day basis and are willing to share their knowledge. They are very good trainers and invaluable partners in the process.
Due to the success of the program, we are delighted to have seen some of the apprentices becoming top dairy managers locally. In addition, not all of the apprentices have leadership skills but in all cases we have found positions on farms that suit each learner who has been through the scheme. The positions must place the apprentices in their comfort zone and this requires careful evaluation. We try to accommodate the apprentices in fields of agriculture that meet their particular interests and even have one who is a trainee green keeper at a golf course!
The Future Farmer Project is about providing opportunities and not hand outs. Whilst we expect the apprentices to pay their own way, we are also aware of the fact that many of them don’t earn enough to travel off shore, hence the funding in place to enable sponsored interns to travel. Money is put up on the basis that it is paid back by the interns, and since the wages paid offshore are good, it has been feasible for interns to pay back the money within four months or so. This money is then recycled to send the next apprentice.
So far the students who have been overseas and are in good management positions as a result, have had their salaries increased from as little as R1 500 before going overseas, to as much as R15 000 within a year of returning. There is demand amongst the farmers for these young men and women on their return.