Four years ago, Francois Swart from Klerksdorp decided to make the bold move to go work on a Texas farm, leaving his wife, Laurika and two daughters, Zetske (4) and Janke (9 months), behind. His inspiring story has since helped many other young South African men who choose the United States of America to build a better, more financially secure future for their families. His journey is captured on his social media accounts, and he has become a hit with young men considering the same move. Saffa Mag spoke to the couple about their journey.
The hardest thing Francois, more fondly referred to as Swys, had to leave behind was his family. “He is a true family man and involved with his children and the first year was hell for us,” says Laurika. It all started when Swys’ work in SA no longer provided enough for the family, and he started looking at other options. He grew up on a farm, which lay the foundation for what would become his new life. “It was a tough process to go through. There wasn’t much information available, and he had to go from pillar to post to sort out visas, work applications and preparing for his departure. He couldn’t properly prepare for what was about to happen and all we could do was pray for the best,” Laurika recalls.
The couple, who celebrates their 10th wedding anniversary this year, did not grasp the impact it would have on their lives. Suddenly ‘spending time’ together meant speaking on the phone or on skype. Laurika had the support of her parents who also live in Klerksdorp, but running a household with two young children of four years and nine months respectively was tough. “We took the decision together and had one common goal of wanting to provide a better future for our children.” In September last year the couple’s son, Wian, was born.
Swys’ season on the potato farm lasts from March until November each year. He is employed as a farming specialist and does everything from preparing the soil, planting, to spraying crops, being involved in every step of the process until the potato harvest is delivered to Lays. His humorous, but informative, videos captured the imagination of many and suddenly thousands of people were following his life in Texas.
His FB page “Texas Boerseun – Swys in Amerika” has more than 55 000 followers, many of them guys in SA who want to pursue the same dream. His Youtube channel, “Swys – Texas Boerseun”, hosts a number of videos where he answers the most frequently asked questions. His fame also paid off with sponsors lining up to have their brands associated with the boerseun. “I am sponsored by Auto Investments, Jimmy’s Sauce and I get my clothes from Horings and Rosies.” Swys loves caps and recently launched his own Bucking Bull range with funky designs. But he makes it clear that it is a hobby for him.
Laurika recently launched her own Facebook page, “Die beste jy” to support wives and partners of farmers in the same position. “I had so many questions on how to deal with the separation that I decided to help women who are struggling with the process.”
Swys is planning his last season in 2023. “His parents have been in Pennsylvania for 13 years and have USA citizenship which opens it up for us to maybe make the move in the future”. If all goes well, they will move to Texas with their family where Swys plans to work for his current employer.
He is modest about his social media popularity: “My main goal was to assist young men who want to make the move with information. If someone else could learn from my experience and make his own journey easier, I am happy.
“I want to speak to the hearts of the young generation and encourage them to save, invest and build on their futures. If someone between the ages of 19 and 25, without financial responsibilities, comes to America with his future in mind, it can provide him with a solid foundation.”
He shares a bit of advice with prospective farmers: “Decide on your five-year plan, set your goals, and don’t think you are going on a holiday. We work long hours under extreme weather conditions that South Africans aren’t used to. Do it for the right reasons and you will never look back.”