The end of another year! As with most of you, I really do feel like my tail is overtaking me … a bit like this …

But, older folk tell me that I shouldn’t look forward to time slowing down anytime soon, it’s only going to get more frantic … urgh!

There are three main points to this newsletter:

  1. Through the awards and highlights of each farmer interviewed, we’ll have a good summary of 2018.
  2. Introducing the INDEX.
  3. SugarBytes needs a report card.

Every single farmer who gave of his time and knowledge deserves an award of far greater value than I can afford so, here is a simple accolade for what I felt each farmer was unique in:

ENTREPRENEURIAL Award. Sivion Mbili – a self-made, large-scale black farmer who has faced extreme struggles, yet continues to chase his dreams. After publishing this article, I had a large-scale white farmer tell me it was the best SugarBytes article so far as it dealt with real issues faced by so many farmers. Sivion is inspirational and is “’n boer maak ‘n plan” personified.

GRIT Award. Rustin Curtis – Together with his brother, Dudley, these two have chased their farming dreams and work brilliantly together, raising their young families and building their business in a tough environment. Their honesty, integrity, unbelievable work ethic and genuinely good hearts for others and for the environment was what stayed with me after this visit. If you think it can’t be done, read this story.

AUTHENTICITY Award. Pete Goss – Pete and Di will always hold a special place in my heart. We connected. They’ve faced tragedy and survived. Pete offers years of experience in this article and teaches us that life happens; how you respond determines the outcome.

THOROUGH-BRED Award. Bruce and Mike Zunckel – This father and son team were awesome. The picture of health, success and prosperity. Very clever farmers who are thorough in every aspect of their farming and it shows in their output.

Most PROMISING Award. Mlungisi Mjwara – SugarBytes’ first Land Reform Grower interviewed. Mlungisi and Sunnyboy, his wise partner, had only taken over the farms 3 years before our interview but they were already on the road to making it a substantial success. They’re invested and passionate about farming and I look forward to seeing them excel.

WELL-BALANCED Award. Jeremy Cole – if you look up “Farmer” in the dictionary, Jeremy’s picture is there. He’s brave, focused, resilient, experienced, passionate and full of fun. He’s faced adversity on many fronts but remains steadfast in his mission to grow good food.

Most UNCOMPLICATED Award. Sam Sibiya – a smallish-scale farmer who has come through the ranks from farm worker to land owner. He is humble, kind, gentle and as eager to learn as he is to teach. His perspectives were refreshing and inspiring.

Most HOSPITABLE Award. Thulasizwe Ngidi – This was a team interview, with Thulas’ wife and son included and I loved every minute with this wonderful family. Thulas is intelligent and wise but also compassionate and aware of his impact on, and responsibility to, those around him.

Most ACCOMMODATING Award. Ant Goble – Although legendary, Ant has been one of the most humble and modest farmers I’ve visited. He faces a huge responsibility in maintaining the success of Goble Estates. He, quite rightly, hands all the accolades to his amazing support team. Quinn Klusener handles the sugar side of the business and brought us many handy tips in this article.

Most INNOVATIVE. Suveer & Ravi Hanuman – what these farmers lack in land, they more than compensate for in ingenuity and are easily the most innovative farmers I visited this year. Breaking all trends, they are finding a way to succeed in one of our most difficult sugar-growing areas.

Most CURIOUS. Mike Lurie – The first Mpumalanga farmer visited this year, Mike sparked a very interesting discussion on fertilisers.

Most IMPRESSIVE. Lourens Agri – A jolly large-scale operation in Mpumalanga. Third generation man-in-charge, Jan Lourens, guided us through his impressive operation. The sugar crop is successfully managed by Gerhard Visagie who taught us a thing or two about doing it on a grand scale.

Most INSPIRING. Grant Taylor – With all this man’s passion and exuberance, I am sure he could farm veggies in a dessert. He doesn’t have the word ‘can’t’ in his dictionary – there’s always a way. Highly successful and ardent about empowering others.

Most EMPOWERING. Roy Sharma – an industry icon, Roy’s family has been in sugar since the days of indentured labour. His story is heart-warming and inspirational.

REAL Award. Delarey and Albie Meintjies – Delarey is our Cowboy farmer of the year! He is guided by his gut and lives for the moment; lucky for him, his gut is wise. He doesn’t sugar-coat anything and this naked truth was engaging and refreshing.

INFINITE CAPACITY Award. Kurt Stock – a farmer with infinite capacity. He is not only diverse in his income portfolio and his farming operation, he also takes on many leadership roles. Kurt’s business acumen infiltrates all spheres and it was enlightening and eye-opening to spend time in his company.

Most ENGAGING Award. Jono Saville. Another farming family that I felt a real connection with. Authentic, solid people who love our land and are gems in the crown of South African agriculture.

Most FOCUSED Award. Kobus and Bernard Johnstone – When love, respect and commitment intersect, the only way is up. This father, son and daughter-in-law team taught us many things but the one I was most moved by, and the one that, I think, underpins all their success, is their love and respect for each other; mix this with their 110% commitment to their operation and the result is magnificent.


Now, looking forward to 2019, SugarBytes has a great new improvement for the users of this website; we have added an INDEX! So, if you’re a farmer struggling with a particular issue, you can find the articles that discussed the topic without wading through them all. Go have a look right NOW.

It is not yet complete, I have only gone through the most recent 12 articles – desperately trying to make the deadline to get this newsletter to you. I will ensure that it is comprehensively updated by the time we go back next year so keep referring to it to monitor my progress.


Please can I ask you all to give me feedback on SugarBytes, in three main areas:

  1. What has been helpful to you.
  2. What hasn’t been helpful.
  3. What you’d like to learn more about, ie: future potential article topics.
  4. Any suggestions of farmers you know who would be valuable contributors to the industry? (ie: interviewees)

Just drop me a mail at and I’ll respond to every one.


Wishing you all a restful and bountiful end of year break. May it be full of wonderful people, delicious food, lazy, restorative days and most of all, PEACE.

I look forward to catching up with you in the New Year.