Evans in his own words

In a short presentation during SAPPO’s recent annual general meeting, I used the analogy of a racing yacht to describe my (our) plans going forward as the helmsman of SAPPO. I take on the helm, captain if you will, of a yacht trimmed and literally flying across the ocean at breakneck speed. We have the ‘jump’ on our fellow players in the animal protein commodity space, but, as in all good and fair competitions, that can change in a heartbeat. We have my predecessor, Johann Kotzé, to thank for that jump. His understanding of the value of partnerships, data collection, data analysis, and leveraging advertising returns – to mention a few innovations at SAPPO – were and remain pivotal.

Now, to a little more personal reflection on myself, which, by my nature, I’m uncomfortable to do but have been coerced by Team SAPPO to share. My career journey so far has been blessed; there have been ups and downs like most, if not all, of us have been through. I grew up on a maize and cattle farm in Viljoenskroon in the Free State. I was very privileged to have a private school education at St John’s College, Johannesburg (this fact added in defence of SAPPO’s chairman). My intent was always to get a degree (father’s orders) and return to the family farm, and, as I loved the Sussex cattle we bred, I decided on a veterinary degree. Alas, the family farm was sold after I matriculated and so a recalibration was needed. After qualifying, I spent five years doing companion animal and equine practice in the greater Johannesburg area.

In 1988, I had a conversation with Anthony Evans, a cousin and my godfather: “You love farming, you miss Viljoenskroon, we want to diversify, what do you think about pigs?”. That was sufficient to pack up and leave Johannesburg and head home to Viljoenskroon, and thus a career in pigs was born. We built a pig farm on the original Evans family farm, Huntersrise, owned by my great grandfather JK, which I managed for five years. In 1993, I moved to CS Vet as a pig veterinary consultant, taking over the reins as practice manger in 1998 when Dr Peter Davies retired, and eventually retiring in February of this year.

I had another conversation with Anthony early in 2015: “We have decided to sell the piggery and obviously Huntersrise, are you interested?” Duh? Of course! And so, on the first of September 2015, I became the proud owner of a piggery. For the first 18 to 24 months, I thought I was so clever, and then came listeriosis, followed by foot-and-mouth disease (FMD), the COVID-19 pandemic, riots, and geopolitical unrest. In near biblical terms, of the eight years we have owned the piggery, nearly seven have been tough. Today, the unit has been depopulated and turned into a low management input, higher health, out-grower unit.

There have been many influences on my life, on my outlook, and on my character. In addition to my faith, in my time back home in Viljoenskroon I had enriching times as a Rotarian. The Four-Way-Rotary Test resonates with me, and I always strive to abide by them in decision-making:

  1. Is it the TRUTH?
  2. Is it FAIR to all concerned?
  4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

Using these principles, I can always live with the decisions I make.

My journey in the pig industry thus far has been immensely rewarding and the opportunity to serve and lead the industry that has been so good to me is an honour and a privilege. It is a role that I do not take lightly and, had it not been for Team SAPPO, would have been utterly daunting.

Team SAPPO is a fantastic group of people, we will be able to set the sails, steer the course and keep the pig industry sailing.

“May your days be filled with Light, Life and Love.”

St John’s College: St John’s College school motto