Sunday, April 21, 2024

DOWN TO EARTH: Farmers moving positively

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IT HAS BEEN SAID “there are only three things that can kill a farmer: lightning, rolling over in a tractor, and old age” American writer Bill Bryson).
As I said last week, farmers in Barbados are being pushed to the limit with the numerous challenges they are being forced to face daily.
While some, like weather, are difficult to control, many of these challenges are in fact man-made, caused by the disloyalty of other Barbadians – for example  those who flood the market with imported produce when local farmers have providedan adequate supply, or indecision by the powers that be regarding the sugar industry which will have a long-term negative effect on that industry.
However, in spite of these difficulties, most farmers continue to persevere, with some venturing into new areas and investing more of their hard-earned dollars in their businesses.
As a member of the National Advisory Committee on Agriculture, I visited Prime Valley Foods Co. Ltd in  St Thomas a few weeks ago.
This comprises ten acres of a 26-acre family-owned farm which has been operated for the last 30 years by Forde Sr.
He was joined 15 years later by his son Michael, who now runs the ten-acre Prime Valley Foods.
Of course, the younger Forde grew up in farming, assisting his father, so when he became a full-time farmer, he was no stranger to the business. Michael also runs a five-acre farm in St John.
He is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in agroeconomics. The major crops grown at Prime Valley Foods are christophene, finger squash and herbs, but other crops like yam, cassava and sweet potato are also grown, as well as tomatoes at some times of the year when they fetch an attractive price.
The farm is fortunate in that it has access to spring water which, in addition to rainwater held in a catchment, it uses for irrigation purposes.
Like all farmers, he is concerned about the prevalence of predial larceny. Although he himself does not have much of a problem since he has instituted patrols, he feels that a leaf should be taken from St Lucia’s book where there appears to be a dedicated task force dealing with the problem, offenders are jailed and the matter is widely publicized.
Taking initiative
Another farm which is persevering and is now taking the initiative to diversify and use additional avenues to improve revenue is Armag Farms at Sunbury in St Philip, under the management of Richard Armstrong, assisted by Mark Steele.
This farm has specialized in sweet potato production over the years, although still planting other crops like carrots, cucumbers and okras.
Recently, it has constructed four greenhouses in an effort to reduce the risk of rain damage to crops during the wet season, as well as losses from birds, and to improve growing conditions generally.
It now grows peppers and tomatoes in these greenhouses.
In addition to selling crops wholesale, it runs an attractively decorated retail outlet for fruits and vegetables.
  In an attempt to add value to the crops it produces, it is in the process of setting up a root crop processing facility which will initially produce sweet potato french fries (frozen and fresh), but eventually will expand into other processed crops like breadfruit, cassava and yam. It is hoped that the local fast-food outlets, hotels and restaurants as well as supermarkets, will support this venture and “Buy Bajan”, thus supporting local jobs and improving our economy  in general. Our farmers are resilient and are persevering in the face of many challenges, but they need our support!
 
• The Agrodoc has over 40 years experience in agriculture in Barbados, operating at different levels of the sector.
Send any questions or comments to: The Agrodoc, C/o Nation Publishing Co. Ltd, Fontabelle, St Michael.

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