Feature
Director, Budding Farmers Jamaica, Grace Henry (centre), and her children, Co-Founders, Mikayla-Ann (left) and Matthew-Aiden Henry.
Photo: Mark Bell

Little Mikayla-Ann Henry wanted watermelons.

But, instead of asking her mom to purchase the fruit, the then four-year-old and her brother, Matthew-Aiden, six, asked for help to plant the seeds that would bear the juicy treat they desired.

It was this interest from her children that led Grace Henry to develop Budding Farmers Jamaica, an entity that introduces farming to small children.

“I wanted 100 watermelons,” says Mikayla-Ann, in telling JIS News about her ambitious goal at the time.

The seeds the children planted did not produce the quantity of fruit Mikayla-Ann wanted, but it piqued their interest in farming and they wanted to plant more.

Over the year since then, the family’s farm has grown to now boast an assortment of crops such as tomato, okra, sweet pepper, pak choi, lettuce, callaloo and more.

The children, now five and seven years old, are co-founders of Budding Farmers Jamaica and can confidently explain and give advice on several techniques of farming, on a whim.

Even as this reporter mentioned a failed attempt at planting pepper, the pair was quick to suggest, “You need to give it lots of sunlight and you need to give it water and your pepper tree will grow”.

Mrs. Henry tells JIS News that Budding Farmers has engaged more than 300 children in the past year.

Co-Founders of Budding Farmers Jamaica, five-year-old Mikayla-Ann Henry and her brother, seven-year-old Matthew-Aiden Henry, plant tomato seedlings.

Through its ‘Grow Club’, children aged three to 12 have participated in virtual sessions and have started their own gardens at home.

Now, with the support of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Budding Farmers Grow Club will officially be rolled out in Jamaican schools in a face-to-face modality, come September.

The details are still in the pilot stage, but Mrs. Henry told JIS News: “Budding farmers will be going into early-childhood and primary schools to teach children about the ins and outs of agriculture and how they can benefit from it. It will also include numeracy and literacy as part of the programme because not all children will learn the traditional way”.

She said the Club will include courses like entrepreneurship and money management, which will prepare the youngsters for real-life situations.

She believes the programme could be a significant component in ensuring Jamaica’s food security.

Co-Founder of Budding Farmers Jamaica, seven-year-old Matthew-Aiden Henry, plants tomato seedlings.

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr, who introduced the ‘Budding Farmers’ initiative to Parliament in his contribution to the sectoral debate on Tuesday, May 17, said that “we will be working with the aim of ensuring that this programme gets across the country as much as possible”.

“We hope that this Budding Farmers Grow Club will solve the critical component of food security by introducing to our children in early childhood and primary school the fundamentals of not just farming but about the business and technology around farming,” he noted.

Minister Charles said the programme is expected to have a pilot phase for one year, after which it will be reviewed for its feasibility with hopes of receiving Cabinet support for expansion.

The Henrys are excited about the growth of the programme and welcome the opportunities ahead.

Bolstered by their theme song, they are on a mission to encourage children right across the island to start their own backyard gardens.

“We are Budding Farmers, and we love to watch things grow…. we are Budding Farmers, and we love to watch things GROW!” they sing.

 

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