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Frankfort villagers milking dairy job opportunities

Written by Noluthando Mkhize
In the small farming town of Frankfort in the Free State lies the rural village of Frankfort Savage – a small settlement of just 27 households.

Sister Priscilla Katase, who runs a dairy farm in Frankfort Savage, in the Free State, has taken it upon herself to create jobs for the local youth and teach them about farming.As you approach the town from the dusty gravel road that is surrounded by green grass and shrubs - an indication that the rainy season has arrived - you are greeted by red rooftops that peep from the mountains surrounding the village.

With the nearest town 36km away and the nearest city – Bloemfontein - about 150km, there is very little economic activity in the area. But the village is home to a small dairy farm called Assisi Farm, which is run by Sister Priscilla Katase, a nun based at the local Catholic Mission.

The mission also has a school, church and clinic, which service the village.

Sister Katase started the dairy farm to provide job opportunities for the community.

She says the farm originally belonged to the church and was scheduled to close down when the person running it immigrated to Germany in 2003.

“I had an interest in farming since my father was a farmer and I used to assist him. In 2003 I took over the farm and started the milking project.”

The farm has 54 milking cows and produces between 552 and 1 500 litres daily.

The milk is sold to Montic Dairy, the farm’s main client.

When Vuk’uzenzele visited the farm 22 cows were pregnant and there were 46 calves, which Sister Katase says, will help grow the business. The farm employs 13 villagers, mostly young people mentored by Sister Katase.

“When interacting with young people I noticed that they were not interested in farming. They associate working on a farm with being dirty without noticing the opportunities that this profession brings.

“I wanted to show them that farming could be as successful as any other profession. I think I am achieving this.”

During the tour of the farm, Sister Katase explains that a typical day at Assisi Farm starts at 4am when the cows are milked. The milk is then stored in a milking tank before being transported to Montic Dairy. The milk is collected every second day.

In 2011, Sister Katase received a financial boost from MTN.

“MTN gave me R100 000, which was used to buy feed for the cows. We plant and harvest mealies, which is also used to feed the cows. We also bought diesel for the tractor we use to harvest.”

Looking ahead, Sister Katase wants to venture into pasteurising the milk, which she believes will yield more opportunities for the small village of Frankfort Savage.