Using a passion for teaching to awaken a zeal for farming
Fikani Mthembu has a passion for teaching. When he returns to South Africa after his one-year US poultry internship, he aspires to “invade” his home district and awaken zeal for farming in young adults. Currently interning on a Rose Acre Farms layer operation in Frankfort, Indiana, in a program funded by the World Poultry Foundation through the Future Farmers Foundation in South Africa, Fikani already has some solid teaching experience under his belt.
After earning a B.Sc. degree in Agricultural Management and doing his mandatory practical training in poultry, Fikani landed a temporary position as an agricultural science instructor at a secondary school. He was the youngest teacher. He says he worked hard to be “very professional,” and his students loved him. He then became an assistant trainer at an agricultural college working mostly with layers and was later placed by Future Farmers Foundation at a broiler operation in South Africa.
Fikani flew into sub-freezing temperatures in the Midwest last November, just as the glorious South African summer was exploding, and began his internship on a 900,000 egg/day caged and cage-free operation. He loves the exposure to a commercial cage-free operation and the farm’s focus on gently handling the birds, for which he has a special affection. He’s also happy to be working in the heated layer houses this winter, not outdoors!
Fikani says the farm follows strict biosecurity measures, which are “spot on.” And he can’t get over how “cool” the bosses are. “They are playful, friendly, and laugh a lot.” To his delight, he has also been allowed to work independently, taking care of 600,000 birds for 3-4 days at a time.
Observing life in the US has also been an eye opener for him. He’s impressed, for example, by how quickly and unbureaucratically he could earn a driver’s license, or acquire a library card on the spot. A patron of the local library and keen to learn more about American culture, he’s currently engrossed in Leon Panetta’s Worthy Fights. “I can’t put it down.”
Looking ahead, Fikani’s goal is to become a certified agricultural trainer/assessor in South Africa. He wants to reinvigorate the agricultural sector and inspire a new generation of South African youths to farm, especially poultry.
For now, however, just three months into his internship, he’s living in the moment, “I’m in a good spot. I can’t think of a better place to be.”
The South African interns participate on a J-1 visa exchange visitor program sponsored by the WISE Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization based in Dyersburg, Tennessee.
Ms. Frances Chisholm
Friend & Supporter of the WPF
Learn More About Frances