Venturing into Poultry with a Strong Plant Production Background
Mhlekhona Hlongwa brings an unusual background to his World Poultry Foundation funded internship in the US. He earned his ag creds after completing a National Diploma in Agricultural Management first as a crop apprentice running the seedling nursery and later running the vegetable cold-storage facility at the Siyavuna Development Centre on the sub-tropical South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, where he grew up. He also developed and maintained the demonstration garden at this NGO.
From there, he moved on to the nearby start-up Nemvelo Farm where Mhlekhona discovered a fondness for chickens while charged with running the free-range broiler production unit. He also set up the farm’s organic vegetable production unit from scratch. Of the operation’s early successes, Nemvelo Farm Manager Diane Pieters wrote, “Much of [it] can be directly credited to Mhlekhona as he has worked with passion and a high level of commitment.”
Mhlekhona demonstrated similar ardor in academics. He added a B.Tech degree in Agricultural Management with a focus on Plant Production and Management during his 2 ½ years at Nemvelo Farm. Advancing his education came naturally to Mhlekhona as he hails from a family with a strong academic tradition: one brother is a secondary school teacher, another lectures at the tertiary level.
At the same time, Mhlekhona was keen to deepen his animal production expertise. He jumped at the poultry internship opportunity offered by the Future Farmers Foundation through a World Poultry Foundation grant. In late summer, he arrived at Rose Acre Farms in North Vernon, Indiana. He’s struck by the farm’s high level of technology and he’s keen to soak up the large commercial operation. He’s also very happy to be gaining experience with layers, especially cage-free.
Among his first impressions of the US, Mhlekhona exclaimed how quiet the small Indiana town is compared to the bustle of his South African hometown, “There’s no one on the streets!”
Mhlekhona has his hopes set on working at a commercial poultry farm near his home when his US year comes to an end. But for now, he’s bracing himself for the notorious Midwest winter. “It will be challenging, but I think I will cope,” he says. We’re sure you will, Mhlekona! Have a terrific year!
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
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