Being from South Africa, Juan Henrique Wiid sees that there are often many preconceived notions which accompany his interactions with Americans, making gap-bridging interesting. Laughing, he shares his insights on education.
“In South Africa, we emphasize geography … we pride ourselves on being very thorough in our education. Everything we learn in high school is based on a worldwide market – including agriculture.
“If you want to be a chef, you would study what is done in other countries as well. Agriculture is no different,” he says.
From education to business, intercultural interaction and government regulation, Juan’s views are logical and matter-of-fact, leaving more time for consideration of the stuff life is made of. Juan has gleaned his life perspective from numerous activities which frequently remain untouched on the average person’s bucket list.
At 19, he graduated from the Warriors program, a seven-month bridging or gap-year program designed for bright, energetic and adventurous young adults who are looking for real direction and purpose. As a graduate of the Warriors Program, Juan is not average.
“I’ve been sky diving, mountain biking, snorkeling, scuba diving, ab sailing, cliff diving, white water rafting and more. I’ve done survival training, lots of fitness, charity work, and I’m also a registered yacht hand.”
“Thirty-five other warriors and I were broken down to nothing and built back up – together. I would not be sitting here today were it not for the psychology, soul searching and adventure we shared. If one of them needed a heart transplant,” he says, gesturing to his chest, “I’d tell them to take it.
“The Warriors pledge and everything they do is ‘for the adventure of being alive.’ It makes the rest of your life a challenge – sometimes you can’t do the things you want to do to live up to the pledge, but you do what you can anyway. To do it, you have to see past your own eyelids.”
Intending to live his adventure while upholding the South African custom, he is following his father into agricultural production.
“It’s tradition. If your dad and your grandfather farm, you do it. If you’re born a farmer, that’s what you stay.” Yet, Juan keeps his loyalty to this tradition adventurous. “I don’t see myself as a farmer. I see myself as a business man.”
Juan and his family are currently completing the immigration process with the intent of starting their crop production operation fresh in America. His father has been working on the opportunity lineup since Juan was born, pursuing land brokerage and researching to get the leading edge.
Juan himself has been preparing for the transition into American agriculture, sharpening his business skills. He took marketing courses in South Africa and has watched others work through the decision-making process, both back home and in the States. He has taken advantage of numerous field trip and internship opportunities afforded him through his degree in agricultural business and production at Black Hawk College.
“Every other agricultural college featured people making decisions in a lab. The Black Hawk video I found through a Google search showed students on the tractor working outside. Black Hawk looked the most practical.”
That level of practicality is setting up Juan for business success. “You farm to make money. What many do not understand is that farming costs a lot of money! You take the millions you make and put it right back into the ground.”
The inputs, the regulations, the challenges and the emphasis of tradition and adventure increase the importance of a business-minded approach in Juan’s agricultural journey.
“Agricultural improvement needs to come from the government’s side. To uphold the strength of our main export – agricultural products – the country’s finances need to become stronger by getting rid of unnecessary processes and regulations. That needs to happen,” Juan says.
As for his specific agricultural goals – “I want to make money and expand business.” He views the agricultural industry, and the college, as one that will sustain itself with perseverance. Juan offers proof that wherever you are in the agricultural world, success is what you make it.
“We make do with what we have. The people, connections and network we have access to make the difference,” he says. “The main concept is that we have to turn profit. It’s all the same – success requires the same basic principles no matter where you are.”