Women in Agriculture: Farming requires resilience - Tamsin Davids, Krystal Farming and Consulting

The founder and MD of Krystal Farming and Consulting, Tamsin Davids, grew up in a small town called Ceres in the Western Cape. As a result of working for a food company, her interest in agriculture was further stoked. 

"My family has always enjoyed growing its own food," she says. "But it was during my time working in the beverage and snack industry that I became interested in farming. This was the best decision of my life!"

"The beginning of 2021 marked the beginning of her farming journey. My motivation for starting was the need to provide safe food to customers," she says. "Working in the food industry helped me recognize the lack of knowledge our farmers have in terms of food safety and quality standards. This alone motivated me to create safe products."

The West Rand is home to Crystal Farming and Consulting. Tamsin currently runs a small operation with 1500 layers, but will soon be moving into the broiler space. As is the case with many small agricultural businesses, Tamsin says starting the company was expensive, but she was lucky enough to receive assistance from a family member. She is grateful for that support.

"Poultry kind of fell into my plate unknowingly," she said. "I took the opportunity that was presented to me and made the most of it, and now sell eggs. We have highline silvers and Lohman browns as layers."

In her opinion, Highline Silver layers are the best to breed due to their long lifespan and high quality eggs. Her business currently employs three workers, and being the owner requires her to work 14-16 hours per day. 

"We don't stop until everything is done," she says. "We start at six in the morning by inspecting the birds, making sure all feeding trays and water stations are clean and full, picking eggs, and then delivering orders." 

Marketing and Managing the Business

Tamsin sells her produce at her farm. Additionally, she sells to an online retailer, Spaza and Kota shops as well as a wholesaler nearby. 

"All of my products are labelled, unlike many smaller suppliers in my area," she says. "I also offer delivery to your door, something that most of my competitors do not provide."

She says that they track their egg production to try and keep their production rate above 90%.  

"Chickens are like kids and anything that makes them uncomfortable will  affect your production," she says. "Production is sometimes impacted by external factors such as cold, heat, or wind. We cannot plough money into a business that is not providing returns. Over 60% of our input costs come from feed feed, which is why efficiency is key."

Her challenges include accessing a bigger market, establishing pricing competitively with retail, and high input costs! 

"Farming requires resilience, and when things go wrong, you should be able to lead from the front," she says.

Government and Advice for Female Farmers

According to Tamsin, transferring skills should be the government's top priority. 

"The government should focus on providing farmers with the tools they need to succeed. Following that, we need land, capital or inputs for that land to prosper."

Although currently she doesn't have a mentor, she has learned to rely on those who know better than her. 

"Don't think that you know more than farmers who have been doing it for longer. Stay flexible! Be willing to learn. Also, chickens are like children. Anything that makes them uncomfortable is going to affect their performance. 

Tamsin believes that women can become effective and active participants in the industry only if they take up space. 

"Make yourself visible and make yourself known among your male counterparts. We get scrutinised more because we are females. Do what you do with gusto!"

She recommends that women who want to get into the industry read and do as much research as possible before starting. 

"Don’t start if you don’t have a production/execution plan," she says. "Have enough starting capital. Don’t take on the journey if you think it’s going to bring you loads of money in a short space of time. Ask for help when you feel like you don’t know how to."

Future Plans 

As an introverted extrovert Tamsin likes spending time outdoors when she is not working. 

"I love hiking and swimming," she says. "Having fun with friends and spending time with my family are also important to me."

In the future, she says, she will expand capacity and move into my own space by 2022.  

"Farming and educating black farmers is a passion," she says. "It’s a fire I cannot tame even though my bank account might disagree."

You can connect with Tamsin via Twitter and Instagram