- Associated Press - Thursday, May 5, 2016

ABERDEEN, S.D. (AP) - One man’s farming operation has become a melting pot of foreign workers.

Scott Anderson of Aberdeen employs three men from South Africa, a man from Brazil and a man from Germany to work on his farming operation that grows “soybeans, corn and dreams.”

The farm has two locations - 7,500 acres near Andover and 4,500 acres near Turton. Soybeans and corn are raised at both locations.

Anderson met Joseph Epp, of Brazil, through his family’s farm operation.

“Joe actually worked for my brother,” Anderson said. “He was the product specialist for the planters, and he came by the farm a couple of times to help out. We got along really well, and he was on the road all the time and didn’t really like it. So I asked him if he wanted to come work with me.”

Epp is now Anderson’s farm manager.

“His uncle farms 80,000 acres in Brazil, so he’s used to seeing large-scale farms. He’s been with me for a little over a year,” Anderson told the American News (http://bit.ly/1T3ztQC).

It was through Epp that Anderson met Nathanael Robinson of Germany, who is Epp’s brother-in-law.

“We got another Brazilian that’s potentially coming over in June or July,” Anderson said.

The South Africans who work on Anderson’s farm are involved in a program called USAFARMLABOR INC., which pairs farms and ranches in the U.S. with seasonal workers from other countries.

Farmers in South Africa are facing hard times that have many searching for work elsewhere.

“There’s a huge drought down there,” Anderson said of South Africa. “The political risk is really high. There’s quite a bit of racism down there. They’re making it hard for white business folks and white farmers to do anything.”

The three South African men who work for Anderson are Ian Hambrock, Walter Engelbrecht and Jens Gevers.

Engelbrecht said it’s getting more and more dangerous to be a farmer in South Africa.

“It’s about 10 times more dangerous to be a farmer these days than it is to be a policeman in South Africa,” said Engelbrecht.

Engelbrecht said that under the rule of South African President Jacob Zuma, there is a push to take back the land owned by white farmers and put it into the ownership of black South Africans. That, Engelbrecht said, leads to the threat of violence against white South African farmers.

He said that all three South Africans will return home at the end of the year when their visas expire.

“We have to go back. It’s our country. It’s home,” Engelbrecht said. “We’re just hoping we can build a future for farms because at the rate it’s going now, it’s really not nice.”

All three men have worked in the U.S. before.

“They were over here several years ago on a custom harvesting crew in 2012. They decided to come back, and we got connected to them through the agency and we’re really happy with them so far,” Anderson said.

“For a farmer, it’s hard to find good, high-quality help, especially when you’re kind of remotely located like me,” Anderson said. “It’s an interesting setup, but the reason I went with the South Africans is I just wanted people that were reliable. And I mean they’re fairly cost-effective, when you break it down like the cost of living, it’s about what you get, maybe a little bit of savings from what you would find locally. I see the trend being more foreign labor.”

The three South African men grew up and went to school together. They were all raised on farms.

“I grew up on a farm, but at the moment I stay in town,” said Hambrock.

He said he’s farmed all his life, but works as a mechanic in South Africa.

“When we got here, it was something to get used to - the climate,” Hambrock said. “It is very cold here.

“The way they talk is another thing to get used to. I’m sure the way we talk is something for them to get used to, but it’s fun,” he said.

Anderson said all of the visiting workers speak English. Often, though, they speak to each other in German. That includes Epp, the Brazilian.

“It’s funny because when you come out here, you expect to hear English, but all you hear is German,” Anderson said.

___

Information from: Aberdeen American News, http://www.aberdeennews.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide