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Breaking the ‘grass’ ceiling

Anita Browne of Greenway Farms, Tarlton is one fab farmer. Meet the woman who managed to win the AGRI Gauteng Young Farmer of the Year in between running the family business and expanding her own little family.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING AT GREENWAY FARMS?
My Father and his business partner founded the business in 1988. I grew up on the farm, but I never thought that I’d end up working here, because what is there for women to do on a farm? I went off to study for a BSc in Human Molecular Biology but later switched to a BSc in Plant Health and Ecology after I did an internship with a plant pathologist overseas. It opened my mind to new possibilities for being a woman in agriculture. I later worked on the farm during holidays. I learned the fundamentals of the business from the ground up. I’ve been working full time on the farm for five years, and proudly run the production side of the business which entails planning, research and development, and everything in between that leads up to the final product.

WHAT DOES GREENWAY FARMS DO?
What started off as a small vegetable farm, which later specialized in carrot production, has now seen new opportunity to further expand the business. Instead of throwing away the broken or forked carrots that aren’t up to sale standard, we made our famous Rugani juice. We have now expanded to pineapple and beetroot juice, and yummy combinations like carrot and pineapple as well as carrot and ginger.

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TELL US ABOUT YOUR AWARD?
One of my suppliers nominated me to be a candidate for the AGRI Gauteng Young Farmer of the Year for 2019. The judging criteria are quite broad and the judges want to see how involved the farmer is in their business. They visited the farm to see what we do here and how I influence the business on all levels. When I was nominated, I was very sceptical about the competition because I don’t do this job for the recognition, but I realised that it gives me the platform to be noticed as a role-player in this industry. I didn’t expect to win, especially because I’m a woman. I am the first woman to win this award and I think it really shifts the paradigm about women in agriculture because it’s not an industry for men only any more. I’m proud that I can be an example that women can achieve anything they put their minds to. The national round of this competition is yet to take place and I am looking forward to it.

WHAT CHALLENGES DO WOMEN IN THIS INDUSTRY FACE?
There has always been a stereotype that there isn’t anything a woman can do on a farm. Even though the business was fast growing, and the doors were always open for opportunity for us to join the family business, there was no real clear understanding or direction, as to where me as a women could add value to the business. This however has changed. It’s a male-dominated industry and it’s very difficult to be seen as a role-player in this industry if you’re a woman. It’s a lot of hard work to be successful. Luckily, these stereotypes are changing, together with the paradigm shift that women can be excellent farmers.

WHAT IS YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH THE COMMUNITY?
Besides providing local produce and employing locals, I think that our success story also inspires and motivates the community. The business started off on a 20 hectare farm and now we have 3 500 hectares. We try to send out a message that anything is possible if you’re prepared to take risks, work hard and walk roads that are not often walked. We also empower our employees, giving them the chance to get upskilled and to provide better lives for their families, and at the end of the day, it lifts up the whole community.

BEING PART OF A FAMILY BUSINESS?
When we say that it’s a family business we really mean it. My father has five daughters and a son, so it was inevitable that at least one of his daughters would end up in the family business. One of my sisters and my brother have also joined me on the farm. My loving husband is the marketing and export manager of the business, so we get to work together a lot. For me, family equals Greenway Farms – I can’t separate the one from the other because we are Greenway Farms.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD FOR YOU?
While the business is growing, my family is also growing. My husband and I are expecting our first child and I’m very excited about it because I am always working towards leaving a legacy for the next generation.

Short & sweet
My favourite part of the job is … being outdoors.
My favourite Rugani juice is … carrot and pineapple.
My friends and family will describe me as … hardworking and determined. They’ll say that I swim upstream, not in a rebellious way, but always challenging paradigms.
My midnight snack is … chocolates or rusks.

Details: 072 659 2492, [email protected]

Text & image: JACO-MARI HAASBROEK.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Wow…best of luck Anita. You really deserve more all the awards.
    Your professionalism in what you do, and your passion for the agri is amazing. Keep it up! Congratulations to you and your husband. The baby will add another dimention and generation of awesome people.

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