Ex-surveyor in fruitful farming venture Mr Clever Dick in his maize field

Patrick Chitumba, Midlands Bureau Chief
TRANSITIONING from full-time employment to retirement can be daunting, but Mr Clever Dick a surveyor has found a way of eking a living from farming.

Mr Dick a devout Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) congregant took a leap of faith when he purchased two plots that are three hectares in size about 10km from Gweru’s central business district along Matobo Road.

He is now a small business entrepreneur who employs five full-time workers and can engage up to about 13 seasonal (contract employees) when it is time for harvesting the crops.

Mr Dick is into horticulture and specialises in potatoes, garlic, onions, lettuce, green mealies, and broccoli among other crops.

“I recently retired from one of the mining companies in the Midlands province. I was a chief surveyor and I am now into horticulture full-time. I took a leap of faith several years ago when I heard that these three-hectare plots were up for grabs. I started with one and later added the second one. So I have six hectares which are under horticulture,” he said.

potatoes

As a young man, Mr Dick trained as a surveyor before working for different companies and finally retiring in Shurugwi.

“I am happy to have ventured into agriculture. I am mainly into horticulture and I tell you that farming pays. I used to run a service station in Bulawayo but I left that line of business because I was not making money. But if you ask me now, I will tell you that I am making money from farming on these two plots. This is what Government is pushing for, if one makes farming a business there are great rewards,” he said.

Mr Dick said he pooled resources with a neighbouring farmer to install a transformer and ensure there was electricity. After Zesa connected power, the neighbours have a constant water supply for the crops.

He said farmers should learn to invest in farming equipment if they are to make maximum profit from the business.
Agriculture is still relatively archaic in the country as most farmers are in subsistence and small-scale farming where they still haven’t been able to overcome the problematic weather conditions.

Mr Dick said investing in drip irrigation, a tractor and other techniques has seen him recording rich rewards.

“Because of the boreholes I have. I am not vulnerable to climate change,” he said.

At the two plots, which are separated by three other plots, there are green mealies ready for the market.

There is also cauliflower, tomatoes, potatoes and broccoli that are going to the market.

onions

“I also have 380 000 heads of onions. They are three months old. I am trying to control the bulbs so that they don’t grow very big. We want to sell them to supermarkets. If they grow very big, they won’t dry well and we end up making losses,” he said.

There is also a section on one of the plots where he is preparing the land to put more potatoes, butternuts and watermelon.

Mr Dick said he did soil sampling and is waiting for results to see the texture of the soil.

“I have set up basic infrastructure at the plots. There are workers’ quarters and I try to motivate them as you can see they have a television and a decoder for entertainment. I know they will always be here to protect our investment,” he said.

“Fellow farmers need to understand the need to lay out necessary infrastructure. I am talking of basic infrastructure and I have been doing it since 2015 when I purchased the first plot.”

As a form of diversifying so that he always has money coming in — he said he has three batches of chickens.

“I have chickens that are four weeks, two weeks old and those that are on the market. They are in batches of 200.

That way we know we have money coming in on top of the crops that are always on the market. I have lettuce, green paper, sugar beans, and the potato is ready for market. At any given time, you must be selling something so that you don’t run out of cash,” said Mr Dick whose family is based in Bulawayo.

He said he was not a cellphone farmer as he is always in Gweru overseeing work at the plots.

“Yes, my family is based in Bulawayo and I acquired land in Gweru. But every Sunday I am here working and on Fridays I go to my family in Bulawayo. As a SDA member I don’t work on Saturdays and that’s when my workers rest as well,” said Mr Dick.

Syngenta

He said planning is key in everything that a farmer does.

“Keeping records is one of the first steps in being a successful farmer. There is a need to develop a culture of keeping well-maintained, accurate records and establishing a sound record-keeping system. Keeping accurate records has its benefits, like helping farmers plan and complete realistic forecasting for the next year,” said Mr Dick.

“Farming is a business and record-keeping helps the farmer plan and do realistic forecasting. Record-keeping provides valuable information on which methods work. The farmer can better predict price changes of inputs and produce from expenditures and sales records kept from previous years.”

seed germination

He said someone who keeps records on seed germination rates is in a better position to select seeds for seasons.

“I spend at least 30 minutes a week updating records. Remember I am a surveyor and every transaction, every cent or every crop counts. I appreciate numbers and I take details very seriously,” said Mr Dick.

He is also into transportation and logistics.

In the long run he said he wants to leave a legacy for his children.

“These plots fall under our company called Midic Enterprises from my wife’s name Miriam and part of my surname Dic. We want to leave a legacy for our children. Outside farming I am a devout Adventist and I also lead a number of organisations in the church. I am the president for the Adventist Laymen services in the Zimbabwe West Union Conference. If I am not on the plots farming, you find me doing God’s work and sharing Christ in the marketplace,” said Mr Dick.

horticulture

He is also working with seed companies such as Syngenta.

Ms Selina Hatidani Sakupwanya, field promoter for Syngenta in the Midlands Province said Mr Dick has been an innovative and lead farmer who embraces the use of hybrids and new varieties.

“Mr Dick is not a cellphone farmer as he is on the ground whenever the need arises. With the change in climatic conditions and evolution of new pests and diseases, Syngenta as a global company has a product development department that specialises in research to ensure our products meet the farmer’s expectations.

We also give back to the community by means of free farmer training to various groups of the community such as the vulnerable and child-headed families,” she said.

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