Young Woman Quits Office Job To Do Goat Farming
This is Neo Leburu. It all started with a Doe and two Kids gifted to her mother as a token of appreciation when Neo was still a teenager, and she immediately fell in love with the goats.
A decade later Neo Leburu quit her job, packed her bags and left Johannesburg’s concrete jungle to head back to her rural home in Ganyesa near Vryburg, North West.
She just wanted to spend more time with her hooved friends – the goats that have now multiplied into a sizeable tribe.
“Many people, including my boss, thought I was crazy and not thinking straight when I resigned. They found it hard to understand just how someone would quit an office job so they could go into goat farming,” said 30-year-old Leburu.
I am happy at how my goats have multiplied over the years and continue to as I strive to get to that stage of a thriving goat farm.
“All I wanted was to be there with my babies. I could not bear the pain of getting calls informing me that a goat had gotten sick and died. I wanted to be there and care for them myself.”
A qualified sound engineer with a diploma in administration, she ended up behind a desk as a student adviser.
Leburu said it was hard to ignore the farming bug that had bitten her.
About six years ago, Leburu swapped her regular office look for a chic farmer’s look.
Her Facebook page bears lots of pictures and videos of her clad in bush or safari gear – from two-toned bush shirts to hunters’ camouflage parka jackets or just simple khakis and work boots.
However, from the photos it appears a Gucci belt often adds some touch of glamour to the khakis. Her make-up was on fleek when the media paid her a visit.
“Why not look good and feel good? I may not be able to wear heels and many other beautiful women’s clothes but metaphorically, the kraal is my office.
“And I might be going there to get my hands dirty, but it does not mean that I can’t leave my home looking good. I do wear make-up most of the time and when I have time to apply it,” Leburu said.
“I wish I could do nails like most women but my day-to-day work does not allow me and I don’t have money to waste paying for artificial nails. Why would I do nails and then be on the farm watching goats’ drinking troughs as well as loading and off-loading water for the animals daily.”
In terms of her clothes, this young woman said she had completely detached from her old self.
“I feel more comfortable in my work boots. I have kind of lost my girly touch. I can’t wear high heels and earrings anymore. I feel more like myself in that farmgirl look,” she said.
Looking at her all dressed up and looking like a stylish young black woman farmer, Leburu said many would think that she was living it up on the farm.
“It’s tough, it has been tough and it will be tough. But I am ready for the farming challenge,” she said.
Leburu’s early passion for farming, triggered by her family’s handful of goats, stayed with her even when she was working in Gauteng.
The gifted goats had been moved to her late grandfather’s disused crop farm where a goat farm was slowly taking shape.
At first glance, the large makeshift kraal of thorny acacia tree branches is not impressive but the young farmer said she had to start somewhere.
“I am happy at how my goats have multiplied over the years. My intention is to grow into a stud breeder dealing specifically with Boer goats while at the same time selling for meat and other goat products,” she said.
This young woman is yet to reap any monetary fruits from her goat farming project.
In fact, she is running a take-away and delivery food business to sustain her farm.
The question is, why is she struggling when there are so many government empowerment and development programmes through which aspiring farmers are trained, mentored and funded to realise their dreams?
“I’d be lying if I say I have benefited from any of those programmes. It’s difficult to explain why I am still struggling when there is so much assistance that I could have benefited from, not that I am entirely relying on hand-outs,” she said.
This young woman believes she is probably seen as just one of those young women trying their hand at farming. Her beaming face changes into dejection when she starts talking about her difficult search for government assistance.
“I have made many endless trips to the department of agriculture’s offices here but they probably just saw a young woman who was not really serious about this farming thing. Maybe they are those men from the old school who believe that it’s taboo for a woman to walk into a kraal. They believe this could lead to a curse on animals and slow down the farm from flourishing,” she said.
“The thing is, despite the many visits to the offices, I only found out recently that I actually should have been registered as a farmer on the government database so that I could be eligible for empowerment and development benefits. But all I was advised was to register my farming business. Who would blame me for thinking I was not pointed in the right direction because I am a woman?
“I believe that I would have been far with my project by now if I had received the right information. But I can attest to why some of the young people’s passion for farming dies along the way. It’s all because resources are available but officials tend to be economical with the information that would get us on the right path. If there were outreach programmes and officials had the willingness to empower us all, then farming among the previously disadvantaged groups would be far compared to the pre-democracy era.
“But this is not going to dampen my spirits. I am going to work hard and someone out there will notice my work one day,” she said.
“I do not have much but there are a lot of equally passionate young women out there whom I interact with and they show a lot of interest in farming. They engage on the subject. One day I will day take many of them under my wing, mentor and empower them in all possible ways. I encourage other aspiring women farmers to never give up.”
Neo says one of her biggest challenges is water supply. “There is a windmill close to our farm which we have unsuccessfully been trying to fix for years with other farmers. I have personally knocked on so many doors of government departments trying to get them to assist us get water but no one will help,” she said.
When this young woman is not worrying about all the challenges she must overcome, Leburu finds joy and self-fulfillment in the kraal.
“Nothing beats the welcoming smell of goat dung every time I step out of the car on the farm – it connects me to nature.
“Then I hear goats bleating, raising their heads in my direction. I see that as an expression of happiness at them seeing me because they know I will walk straight into the kraal, caress them and inspect almost each one of them. I feed the little ones that have lost their mothers or are not getting enough milk,” she said with joy.
Despite all the challenges, the mother of one said she was now deeply rooted in farming.
“Some people can see my struggle. Recently someone asked for my CV, promising to help me find a job. But I told myself that when I got into farming full time I was never going to type a CV – unless it is to add on my profile.
“I am working towards being an employer and not an employee,” said this young woman, who already has staff on the farm.
“All I can say is, things are hard at the moment but those are just hurdles that will pass before I get to the bigger things in life. Neo is going places, watch the space.”