by A.J. Sabine
Percy MacCaskill is the epitome of a character. He has a wit about him that will constantly make you laugh. But there is much more about Percy that had an impact on our class.
He now works for Cotton SA (South Africa), mentoring emerging black producers through a federal government grant. But he is more than a mentor. He is known by so many in agriculture in the Bushveld. We traveled to farms throughout the Bushveld in the Loskop Irrigation Scheme. It’s a gravity flow irrigation system built in the 1930’s that covers approximately 25,000 hectares of agriculture. That is more than 61,000 acres.
We spent most of our day with Percy looking at multiple operations. It is great to meet every farmer and rancher we came in contact with, but Percy leaves a lasting impression.
“In five seconds you fall in love with him,” said Kassi Berard, a sugar producer from St. Martin Parish. “He has a love of life that is amazing.”
But there is more to Percy than meets the eye. “You respected his world knowledge,” said John Compton who is from Jeff Davis Parish. According to Chris Green from East Baton Rouge Parish, “You could tell he was picking up information from the group as well.”
One of the visits was a meeting with an emerging black producer, Khombi Franz Malela. He is a former electrician who always wanted to farm. He began many years ago on a small community plot of five hectares (approximately 12 acres). His predominate crops are cotton and corn. He now produces 60 hectares and mentors other producers on another 60 hectares. The primary reason for his growth is the acceptance of technology. We saw a plot of GMO cotton. Thomas Crigler, a cotton producer from Tensas Parish, will share more of his thoughts about Khombi’s cotton crop in another post.
Khombi is a testament to the work that Percy continues to do every day. “You can tell he is passionate about his country,” said Billy Patout from Orleans Parish. “But he adds just the right amount of curmudgeonly behavior.”
Perhaps the best story about Percy is from Troy Romero. Troy is a graduate of Ag Leadership and owns a sports turf grass operation. “He carries bible scriptures in his pocket on small pieces of paper and gives them to the women walking along the side of the road carrying water and food back to their homes.”
Percy MacCaskill is a true character, but he is much more. I’ve been fortunate to spend two days of my life with Percy. I’m grateful our group got to spend time with him too.
A.J. Sabine is a Video Specialist for the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation and an alumnus of the LSU Ag Leadership Program.