Vincent Mgwaba and his mother, Clementine Ndlovu, on the smallholding where they produce fresh veg. Pictures by Garth Johnstone
By Nerissa Card
Seven is a number with which Vincent Mgwaba is very familiar. He has been working seven days a week since he was seven years old.
From Mondays to Fridays you will find him tending his smallholding in Rosetta. At weekends he spends his time taking care of people’s gardens.
“You have to work hard to make it,” says the man who is passionate about food security.
Born in Kamberg, Vincent grew up in Rosetta. He went to school at Nottingham Road Combined School, now Shea O’Connor Combined School.
Thereafter he attended Midlands Community College to upgrade his matric subjects to enable him to enrol at university, where he studied land surveying.
After qualifying, Vincent worked on mines in Upington, Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. This was followed by a four-year stint at Group 5, after which he joined the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform.
“I left the department when my contract expired to go into farming because I had more experience in farming.”
Vincent explains that when he was seven years old, a farmer in the area took him under his wing and started training him.
“I worked on the farm at weekends. The farmer taught me about compost, soil, seedlings and how to plant. I worked on the farm until matric. He wanted me to be a farmer, but I didn’t see the potential at the time, so I went into surveying.”
Crops and chickens
Vincent started renting the property he now lives on from Transnet in 2014. He began farming the land in 2015, and his crops including spinach, cabbages, carrots, beetroot, green beans, peas and butternuts.
When I visited him, he was in the process of building a shed for chickens.
“I did chickens when we were living at Dr and Mrs Davies’ home, but when we moved to Mooi River, the property was too small.”
Vincent’s mother, Clementine Ndlovu, started working for the Davies family after Vincent’s father died. He was just two weeks old at the time.
He was living with his grandparents in Kamberg, but was taken in by the Davies family, who assisted with his school fees and first year at university. Thereafter, Vincent was sponsored.
Explaining his garden service business, Vincent says: “I started the garden service in 2014 as well. Because I had no farming equipment, I had to work weekends so I could buy tractors and ploughs. I still work hard at that side of the business. There is no time to rest.”
Vincent’s 12-hour days start at 7am. At harvest time, he and his mother work until 11pm packaging vegetables in her garage in Mooi River. Clementine also helps with seedlings, as does his niece, Azenhle Mgwaba.
Vincent supplies Spar in Nottingham Road, Shea O’Connor School and the surrounding community. He also supplied CT Organics.
Mgwaba Veggies is also open for the public to buy direct from the farm.
And what about his plans for the future?
“We want to have a small shop where we can display our goods and serve tea when people come to buy direct from us.”
Vincent is looking for assistance to help him grow his business.
On his wish-list are a container for the shop and vegetable tunnels so he can extend his growing season. In fact, anything to do with farming.
“We try not to buy things, for financial reasons, so, for example, we make and treat our own poles for fencing. I have also made my own baling machine out of wood because I couldn’t afford to buy one.”
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Absolutely nothing goes to waste, with Vincent also collecting all the grass and leaves from his garden service jobs for compost.
And when he’s driving on the N3? “I collect discarded tyres for the garden, so I am cleaning the N3 as well,” he laughs.
In need of some inspiration from a man who seems to have no time for those who don’t get out there and just do it?
Pay Mgwaba Veggies a visit. You can contact Vincent on 072 878 9078.