Feature
St. Elizabeth Farmer, Desmond Whitely (right), accepts ‘The Best of St. Bess Golden Award’ from Political Ombudsman, Donna Parchment Brown, at the St. Elizabeth Homecoming Foundation's Homecoming Week 2019 Awards Brunch held recently at Lover’s Leap in the parish.
Photo: Okoye Henry

Story Highlights

  • The St. Elizabeth Homecoming Foundation has honoured fruit and vegetable farmer Desmond Whitely, for 42 continuous years in the industry.
  • The 54-year-old son of the parish was presented with the ‘Best of St. Bess Golden Award’ at the Foundation’s Homecoming Week 2019 Awards Brunch held recently at Lover’s Leap, where he was showered with accolades for his contribution to the growth of the local agricultural sector.
  • He tells JIS News that it feels good to know that all his years of hard work and dedication to farming is being recognised. “It was very important to win the award. I feel good about it,” he says.

The St. Elizabeth Homecoming Foundation has honoured fruit and vegetable farmer Desmond Whitely, for 42 continuous years in the industry.

The 54-year-old son of the parish was presented with the ‘Best of St. Bess Golden Award’ at the Foundation’s Homecoming Week 2019 Awards Brunch held recently at Lover’s Leap, where he was showered with accolades for his contribution to the growth of the local agricultural sector.

He tells JIS News that it feels good to know that all his years of hard work and dedication to farming is being recognised. “It was very important to win the award. I feel good about it,” he says.

At his four-acre farm in Hampstead and on lands leased in the area, Mr. Whitely cultivates high-quality fruits and vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, tomato, pineapple, honeydew and cantaloupe.

Like many youngsters growing up in rural Jamaica, Mr. Whitely started farming as a boy, planting small plots of vegetables. Over the years, his love for farming grew and he decided to pursue the vocation on a full-time basis.

Mr. Whitely is always looking for ways to grow his operation, and in so doing, has worked in partnership with international companies to test varieties of fruit and vegetable seeds in order to find solutions to pests and diseases and improve productivity.

Among these is United States (US)-based company, Seminis Seed.

“When we had the geminiviruses that was plaguing Jamaica’s tomato crop, Seminis Seed come out with some new varieties that resist the geminiviruses. So that’s where Jamaica started to come back now with tomato on the south part of the island where we could plant most of those varieties and get successful crops,” he explains.

Veteran St. Elizabeth farmer, Desmond Whitely, expresses gratitute after he was presented with the St. Elizabeth Homecoming Foundation’s ‘Best of St. Bess Golden Award’ at the Foundation’s Homecoming Week 2019 Awards Brunch held recently at Lover’s Leap in the parish.

 

Mr. Whitely, who is recognised as a leader by his peers, was elected as president of the Benlar Farm Alliance, a 10-man group that is focused on investing in agriculture and maximising crop yield.

He says that the group will be undertaking cultivation of cassava for Rainforest Seafoods starting February 2020.

“The demand for cassava is big now. I have four acres of cassava doing for myself, but in February, the alliance wants to put in 10 acres then multiply it maybe to 40 acres for Rainforest,” he says.

As it relates to the future of agriculture, the veteran farmer says he would like to see Jamaica producing rice to satisfy the local market.

Mr. Whitely, who has mentored a number of young farmers over the years, says he also wants to see more young people joining the sector.

He believes that youngsters would gravitate to agriculture given the right opportunities and investments.

Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. J.C. Hutchinson, in his remarks at the function, hailed Mr. Whitely for his stellar contribution to farming and rural development.

He says Mr. Whitely exemplifies the power that small farmers have on the agricultural sector and the Jamaican economy.

“You are one of those persons who are showing the larger farmers how it can be done and how it must be done,” said Mr. Hutchinson.

The St. Elizabeth Homecoming Foundation Limited is a non-profit community organisation established in 1993.

Its objective is to develop and implement strategic plans for the economic, social, environmental and cultural development of the parish.

The Foundation establishes and operates an education development fund to assist in the education of children of the parish through scholarships, grants and contributions to educational institutions.