Seeds, Springbok, and Shanty Towns.

The first full day in South Africa began bright and early at 6:00 a.m. as we ventured through Pretoria to the Tshwane Market. This market is the second largest of 19 total markets that span across the South African landscape. It provides fresh produce to both local civilians and markets. Although many may believe that South Africa is not very technologically advanced, we learned that all 19 markets are linked together by the same computer program to help track the inventory, price, and consumption of the commodities. Through the computer system, a farmer can access his account from anywhere and see how much his/her produce is being sold, as well as how his produce is selling compared to others in the market place. At 6:00 a.m., many were still sleepy-eyed but we woke up to the fact that most buyers and sellers in the market start their days as early as 3:00 a.m.!

Once we fueled up on coffee, we journeyed over from the beautiful city of Pretoria to the Sakata Southern Africa Vegetable Seed Company, humbled by the sight of poverty-stricken shanty towns along the way. We learned that the Japanese-based company is the leading producer of broccoli and cabbage in the world, but they also focus their research on peppers, melons, and root-based plants. South Africans are quite proud of the quality of the tomatoes they grow, as it is one of their three largest commodities (potatoes and onions being the other two). We had the privilege of hearing Scott van Heerden, Sakata plant breeder, talk about the challenges that tomato growers face and how they are working to develop a healthy, nutritious product that farmers around the world can produce. Sakata attributes most of their success to their focus on collaboration amongst growers and plant research companies around the world and the passion they possess for developing quality produce rather than focusing on input versus output.

Before we returned to Pretoria, we stopped for lunch at the Heia Safari Ranch where we enjoyed what we were told was a traditional South African barbecue. Our plate was filled unfamiliar foods, but many plates were cleared of kebabs and other traditional dishes by the end of the meal. We were fortunate enough to witness our first sighting of wildlife including giraffe, wildebeest, zebra, and springbok. Once back in Pretoria, we experienced a short tour of the city consisting of the Union Building (Office of the President), and admired the newly-erected Nelson Mandela statue.

After a very filling dinner, a daily debrief session was held at our hotel before heading to bed to rest up for another exciting day in South Africa!

Gwynn Simeniuk
Montana FFA 1st Vice President

Sam Detwiler.
Illinois FFA President




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