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Message from John Firth

John Firth is the 4th generation family owner of Hillcrest Game Estates (a Firth Group subsidiary). Other farming subsidiaries within the Firth Group include pecan nuts (Maquassi Spruit Pecan Nuts), cycad propagation and preservation (Highlands Cycads), as well as the Firth Red Brangus and Firth Wagyu beef businesses.

Dear fellow farmers, friends and readers

Since my last message written during Stage 4 of Lockdown, much has happened—“so much water under the bridge” so to speak. As the Spring season commences, we now find ourselves in Stage 2 of Lockdown. It is clear that much of life and society continues to evolve in the post Covid-19 era, bringing with it both opportunities and uncertainty.

As was said in our prior newsletter earlier this year, our management team, advisory board and Exco have regularly been meeting online. To this end, we remain committed to focusing our energies on fostering the establishment of solid, mutually beneficial stakeholder partnerships. We firmly believe—without a doubt—that this is the only true way forward for any business entity in the post Covid-19 era.

We alluded to the fact that it’s no longer about the fittest that will survive. Rather, it’s all about being ‘future fit’, which implies ‘being agile and adaptable’. We cannot control our environment, but we can control how we adapt to it. To enable us to foster this kind of business culture, we have developed The Firth Way of doing business and farming.

Today we share this with our readers, in the hope that you may also find these principles useful in unlocking your future as a farming enterprise.

Many of you may recall the so-called “triple bottom line” coined by Elkington way back in 1994: People, Planet, Profit. Now, some 25 years later, we have built on this by adding two more components: Technology and Partnerships.

Simply stated, The Firth Way encapsulates the way in which we—the Firth Group—will strive towards our vision and mission. Our employees easily remember the 5 operational principles of The Firth Way with the easy-to-remember PPTPP acronym: Profit, People, Technology, Planet, Partnerships.

In short, the PPTPP operations principles may be explained as followed:

  • PROFIT: Strive towards excellence in all we do, to ensure a profitable and sustainable business.
    • Strategic excellence
    • Operational excellence
    • Bridging the gap between science and practice
  • PEOPLE: Empowering our people, with a view to unleashing their fullest potential. 
  • TECHNOLOGY: Technological enablement, with a view to fostering sustainable methods of farming-production and management. 
  • PLANET: Sustainable and eco-friendly farming, with a view to cultivating a healthy agribusiness philosophy that always builds, never destroys.
  • PARTNERSHIPS: Stakeholder partnerships and community service, with a view to building strong, authentic, mutually beneficial relationships with varied interest groups (such as environmental organisations, educational and research entities, commodity groups, non-profit organisations, government departments, local communities and other farmers). We believe that, true to the spirit of Ubuntu, good relationships are proving to be key in the ever-evolving post Covid-19 era.

We would like to hear from you, our readers: How might this resonate with you and how might you have seen the successful application of these principles in your own business or farming environment? [Ed. Simply send your email to editor@firthgroup.co.za]

To close (along a similar vein to my message earlier this year): Farmers everywhere, be encouraged, all will not be lost in the post Covid-19 era. In fact, from what we are seeing, it’s proving to be quite the opposite. I don’t know about you, but we at the Firth Group remain curious and courageous for what’s to come. We see Covid-19, not as a stumbling block, but as a stepping-stone towards innovation and cooperation. As farmers, we need to address the challenges and disruptions of our time in fresh ways.

As Bernard Shaw once said: “Some see things as they are and ask why?” At the Firth Group, we prefer to dream things that never were, and ask, “Why not?”  

Warm regards

John Firth

Watch a short video introducing “The Firth Way”

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