Looking back on my visit to South Africa, a highlight was meeting Angus McIntosh, who kindly showed me his 114 hectare farm outside Stellenbosch. Angus grew up on a cattle ranch in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. He studied Management Accounting at Stellenbosch University and was a stockbroker for Goldman Sachs in London for four years. On his return to South Africa, he started farming bio-dynamically. I was recently back in touch with Angus as I wanted to learn more about how he farms and why.
Philip: My visit to your farm during my recent visit to South Africa was fascinating. I know Compassion’s supporters will be interested to learn more about what you do. Please describe for us us how you raise the animals on your farm.
Angus: Our 350 cattle are outside on pasture all year round. We are the only pure grass fed beef operation in the country. We move our cattle four times a day to new pasture. This is known as the high density grazing methodology proselytised by Allan Savory. It also sequesters carbon which conventional beef operations don’t do. Our 4,000 laying hens lay their eggs overnight in Eggmobiles. These are moved daily to new pasture.
Philip: I understand your farm is biodynamic. What does that mean?
Angus: BioDynamics is an enhancement to organic farming. In addition to sharing all the principles of organic farming BioDynamics is concerned with on farm fertility creation as well as uplifting of staff. There is also a recognition that life is an energetic process and trying to understand these energies and then working with them enhances fertility on the farm and leads to products that are superior in quality to organic or conventional products.
Philip: Is your farming practice based upon any other principles?
Angus: The overriding principle is that we are custodians of the land and we need to ensure that at all times fertility is improving on the farm. We apply certain permaculture principles and have started understanding Holistic Management as per Allan Savory mentioned above.
Philip: Industrial agriculture in Europe has been around for about 50 years. But you told me that in South Africa it’s been present for at least 15 years. How much of a problem is factory farming in your country?
Angus: Factory farming has been around in South Africa since the mid 1960’s. It has intensified since then. In addition, we have become the dumping ground for Brazilian chicken so any way you look at it, we have a problem.
Philip: Are you optimistic about the future of farming in South Africa?
Angus: There is a lot to be optimistic about. The climate, the people, the animals and the consumer who is getting more educated. However, the government is being very irresponsible by taking lots of productive farm land and giving it to labour who have no idea how to run a farm and that productive unit becomes economically sterile. In addition to that the grip of factory farming is very strong and the retailers who could change the system are reluctant to make any changes that could possibly affect their short term profits. We keep trying, believing that in the end quality and honest pricing will win over “food” that makes you and the environment sick.
Philip: How do you respond to the question that some say we need to boost production to avoid future world hunger?
Angus: That ludicrous canard is only believed by the media, tertiary education agricultural institutions and those working for the agricultural chemical companies. Today we are producing enough food to feed between 11 and 14 billion people yet at the same time we are losing 20x more kgs of topsoil in erosion than kgs of food produced. Equal amounts of people are dying of obesity and starvation. The wrong food (read GMO corn and soya) is being produced by the wrong people in the wrong places using the wrong methodology.
Click here to learn more about Angus McIntosh and his Farmer Angus products.