As part of a Protected Agriculture Project in North East St. Catherine, a greenhouse was officially opened in the community of Top Mountain, Thursday (June 10).
The greenhouse is one of four constructed by the Christiana Potato Growers’ Association in the Pear Tree Grove and Top Mountain communities at a cost of approximately $6 million, through funding by the Constituency Development Fund (CDF).
Implemented by the Rural Agricultural Development Authority’s (RADA) office in St. Catherine, the ‘greenhouse cluster’ project in Top Mountain involves the cultivation of tomatoes and sweet peppers by four farmers selected from the community.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton (left), interacts with children in attendance at the ceremony at the Top Mountain Church of God, North East St. Catherine, on Thursday (June 10) , to officially open a greenhouse in that area.
Speaking at the handing over ceremony at the Top Mountain Church of God, Member of Parliament for North East St. Catherine, Gregory Mair, explained that the farmers had to go through a selection process. After selection, they underwent intensive theoretical and practical training in the utilisation, management, and successful operation of greenhouse facilities.
He told the farmers that they now had the responsibility to ensure that other farmers are inspired to take the next step in doing farming in a different way.
“This (greenhouse farming) is going to be the platform from where we are going to start changing the way we do farming, all the way through North East St. Catherine,” he asserted.
He said the green house has not been given to the farmers, but is being provided under a lease agreement.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton (at podium), addressing the ceremony at the Top Mountain Church of God in North East St. Catherine, on Thursday (June 10) , to officially open a greenhouse which is part of a Protected Agriculture Project. Seated at the head table from left are: Director of the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) Programme Management Unit in the Office of the Prime Minister, Moveta Munroe; Chairman of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority’s (RADA)Parish Advisory Board in St. Catherine, Hyman Smith; Chief Executive Officer of RADA, Al Powell; and Member of Parliament for North East St. Catherine, Gregory Mair.
“They are going to be paying back the cost of this investment, over time at a very reasonable rate, because the whole idea is that it will go back into a revolving fund and then other farmers will have an opportunity to sign another lease agreement to go ahead and do another greenhouse,” he explained.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Dr. Christopher Tufton, commended the farmers whom, he said, have been given an opportunity to benefit from the use of modern technology that will add value to their farming.
“In a sense, all eyes are on you, because you now have the most modern technology in agriculture in your community, Top Mountain, and you are the drivers…you are the catalyst, you are the ones who will either make it work or make it fail. If you make it work, you will be surprised to know the spin-offs it will have on your community,” he said.
He advised the farmers to teach others what they have learnt about greenhouse farming, noting that it is important to transfer best practices, so that others can benefit.
The farmers who have benefited from the project are: Colin Green, Wesley Lambert, Erica Ferron and Leroy Hyde.
Erica Ferron, who responded on behalf of the beneficiaries, said she became interested in greenhouse farming, after being encouraged by one of her fellow recipients to become a part of a training exercise in greenhouse farming.
She said the training involved taking care of a greenhouse, planting seedlings, nurturing plants, learning about different kinds of chemicals or nutrient mix, insects and diseases that are likely to affect plants and how to treat them.
“We were so enthusiastic about not just what we saw, learnt and did, but also venturing into this field. My fellow recipients were already farmers, now it was my turn – I had to be a farmer; not the one we are so accustomed to seeing in an open field, with a fork, machete, etcetera, but a greenhouse farmer,” she declared.