After leaving her full-time job at Up Park Camp each day where she works as a dental hygienist, 28-year-old Sabrina Smith heads to her farm in Seaview Gardens, Kingston, where farmers and farm lands are few.
Mrs. Smith, a University of Technology (UTech) graduate, shares a meagre plot of land with five other male livestock farmers.
“If I could leave my job now and stay here all day I would. That’s how much I love it,” she tells JIS News, her voice seeping through the commotion inside one of three chicken coops holding roughly 300 layer hens.
Mrs. Smith supplements the income from her regular job with the money she generates supplying eggs to several businesses inside Seaview Gardens and the surrounding communities.
“It’s a thriving business,” she says, noting that it emerged from a period in time when the job market was not too kind to her.
“I graduated from UTech in 2013 with a degree in dental hygiene and wasn’t getting any job, so I said ‘let me create my own job’.”
“I started off with two pigs that my husband bought, then a hundred layer chickens that we raised to maturity. They were about three months old at the time, so it took another three months for them to start laying,” she recounts.
Before finding a full-time job and eventually employing two persons to help out on the farm, the dental hygienist says she would do basically everything on the farm with little assistance.
“I would wake from 5:30 a.m. and take care of things. At the time it was just one water source – a pipe that all of us used to catch water for the animals. It was difficult carrying the water, but I had a natural love for what I was doing,” she says.
The UTech graduate tells JIS News that no sooner than her chickens reached maturity she began to realise there was a huge demand on the market for eggs.
“When we started making the profit we saved it and expand the farm. We built the pig pen first and then the next year we built this section here [another chicken coop] from the same savings. Each year we take most of the profit and buy more chickens,” she notes.
“Right now, we basically supply probably 70 to 80 per cent of the shops around here [Seaview Gardens] and a few other places in the surrounding Kingston 11 and Kingston 12 areas,” Mrs. Smith adds.
She says whenever the demand for eggs is slow she sells her supply to shoppers inside the Coronation Market in downtown, Kingston.
“About ten months out of the year, the market is good, and for two months things probably kind of stall. When we realise the market is slow we go to Coronation Market and sell them. For the most part, the demand is always there and it always exceeds the supply,” Mrs Smith shares.
She reveals that her main goal is to continue expanding. She now has over 800 layer hens, along with a few pigs.
“Honestly, I didn’t see it expanding to this size. They say when you start a business, it is more likely to crash within the first two years. It’s been four years now and it’s still very good. Yes, the cost of the chickens has gone up – the cost to purchase them, and the cost to feed them – but the demand is still great, so we don’t watch that,” Mrs. Smith says.
Urban Faming Possible
She tells JIS News that like farmers in rural Jamaica, persons within the urban areas can make their mark in farming, especially in the area of crop production.
“Technology is so advanced in farming now, that if you want to grow crops you can do hydroponics farming – instead of growing on land, you grow through different pipes in your backyard. Especially young women, you don’t necessarily need to be digging soil anymore to grow crops,” she advises.