By Motlabana Monnakgotla
A car accident made this graphic designer more grounded, and take to farming, tending to vegetables on a piece of land far from Johannesburg.
About 250kms from the sanitized suburbs of Sandton in South Africa’s Gauteng province is Randfontein, a rugged gold mining city in the West Rand, where we meet 31-year-old Katlego Pitse on his farm where he is currently producing rows of crisp green lettuce.
A few years ago, the Soweto-born farmer was far from any piece of earth, and closer to a computer desktop, earning a living as a graphic designer.
The only definition he gave himself was as a ‘creative’.
“Straight after high school, I studied graphic design from 2008 until 2012. From there on, I pursued a career in commercial arts. Advertising is the number one industry that absorbs creatives,” says Pitse of his ‘other job’.
He worked for various companies in Johannesburg and his career was well on to greener pastures as he enjoyed a hefty salary with annual increments and a lavish lifestyle, until an unfortunate incident threw him out of gear. Pitse was involved in a road accident in 2015 and the snazzy, pricey car he had been spending so much on, had to be written off. The accident was a facilitator, as he was faced with some life-defining choices, and the prospect of a new direction, one that made him more grounded.
“I had to start over. This was the kind of catalyst that gave me a bit of a wakeup call; going forward, [I realized] if I was to spend money, it had to be on valuable assets that are going to yield returns that can be passed on,” he says.
He left a full-time job to freelance at a night club; this is where he was exposed to the day-to-day operations of a business. It helped him take to entrepreneurship, pursuing agriculture full-time; which had been a burning desire since his days as an art student thumbing through agriculture magazines.
“I was constantly doing research. It was something I knew I wanted to do but I wasn’t sure when I was going to be able to pursue it fully because you need an actual career,” he says.
“There was an article I read about a farmer based in Winterveld. I called to ask if I could visit to see his operation in 2015. Just that farm visit was an inspiration to start my business.”
Pitse saved up enough money to buy a vacant two-and-half hectare plot in Randfontein for R200,000 ($13,400). It took him three years to start production, during which time he pursued his graphic design career on the side.
In 2019, the first year of production, Pitse focused on cucumbers – his pet passion – and did cycles of long English cucumbers. Due to the high costs, Pitse had to re-evaluate and decided to move to a less cumbersome crop, lettuce.
Pitse is currently employing two family members and still does the odd graphic design job to supplement his income.
Surely, a small-scale farmer with big graphic dreams of the future.