By Joan Janzen

“There’s not much that’s more satisfying than seeing grain going into a bin. We call it liquid gold.” Those words weren’t spoken by a farmer, but by a technician. Technicians are the ones who trouble shoot, service, repair and rebuild equipment for farmers. “You get so excited, because technically you’re working with the farmers. I love it. It’s fun.” Francois Van Zyl, a technician at Pattison Ag said.

In August of 2019, Francois arrived in Kindersley from his home in South Africa. “Leaving was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” he said. But his mother had several misfortunes, including a stroke, loss of her home and job loss. “I wasn’t making money fast enough to be able to help her and I looked at options. Wages in South Africa are less because there’s more competition. There‘s always someone who is willing to work for two dollars less than you, so you take what you can get.”

Francois was a city kid. “My family couldn’t afford Christmas. For me it was more of a Christian event and having some people around.” There was also a fee for attending school, plus uniforms and books which needed to be purchased. “My sisters and I were good in sports so we got bursaries. I went to high end schools because I was good at sports, not because my parents could afford the fees.”

As a teen he worked in a McCain factory. A friend’s dad invited Francois to live and work on his farm, where corn and soya was grown. “I learned farming from him. That was the first time I saw farming in my life. He saw that I was good at it and told me to apply for a tech apprenticeship.”

Francois started his apprenticeship at the age of 20, and after completion worked as a tech for a year in South Africa. During that year he had applied for a job in Canada and got the position. But it took a year to complete the process, which cost between $7,000 to $9,000, money Francois had to earn. “I worked 18 hours a day every day to get here. I wasn’t going to miss this opportunity.” Francois said.

Upon arrival in Kindersley, he was told there was a protest being held. Francois laughed, “There were four people holding signs! I was expecting 1000 people with guns and throwing rocks like back home. The amount of stress people have here is zero compared to South Africa.”

He was amazed to see kids out riding their bikes after dark, and couldn’t believe he could leave his extension cord and snow shovel outside and they would still be there in the morning.

“People here tend to be more helpful and stop to help if you’re stranded on the highway. In South Africa you don’t know if you’re being lured into a trap and will be mugged, so people don’t stop to help.”

Farmers’ livestock is often stolen and slaughtered in the field. Vandalism, theft, violence and murder are so commonplace that there are two security gates into homes with armed security guards on patrol. Police don’t respond to reports of crime.

“I love my country but it saddens me to see it go to waste.” Francois said, but he also appreciates his new home in Canada. “It’s a beautiful country and unique. It’s stunning to see so much open space and then drive a few hours and see mountains, and another direction and see valleys. I’m planning to be a farmer some day. That’s the dream.”

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