Shaneka Wallace-Graham is the winner of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs’ inaugural Backyard Family Garden Challenge.
The St. James native walked away with a cash prize of $60,000, seedlings and gardening accessories, during a virtual awards ceremony on Thursday (February 25).
Second place went to Joel James of St. Catherine, who received $35,000, while Elaine Britain from St. Thomas, who placed third, got $25,000. They also received seedlings and gardening accessories from sponsors.
“It is an immense pleasure,” an elated Mrs. Wallace-Green said after receiving her prizes.
She said she was confident of taking the top stop, given the quality of the crops she planted, and the high level of social media engagement, which was a key part of the judging.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Floyd Green, in his address, said that the Ministry is on a mission to encourage Jamaican to plant their own food through initiatives such as the Backyard Family Garden Challenge.
“It is really to transform our agriculture and fisheries sector to one that is market-driven, research-based and sustainable,” he noted.
Minister Green said that this mission of transformation “is even more critical now in light of COVID-19… and this backyard gardening challenge is at the heart of our mission… for sustainability and food security”.
For his part, Executive Director, Jamaica 4-H Clubs, Dr. Ronald Blake, noted that the Backyard Family Garden Challenge was implemented in May 2020 in response to the COVID pandemic.
The competition, under the theme ‘Plot to Plate’, ran for three months up to August 31. Persons were asked to plant two or more cash crops such as cucumber, callaloo, lettuce, pak-choi, cabbage, corn and okra in their backyard or in containers.
Participants were engaged from all 14 parishes and they were required to submit videos or photographs of the garden area at the beginning, during and end (harvesting) stages of the challenge.
Members of the public were invited to ‘like’ the submitted videos and photos on the Jamaica 4-H Clubs’ online platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The highest number of ‘likes’ were included in the overall judging process.
Dr. Blake said that the main objectives were to strengthen, intensify and broaden the food production base of Jamaica, contribute to food security, improve nutritional family health and help to mitigate high food costs.
“The project… targeted 4-H members, volunteers, as well as the general public. The whole emphasis was on a family-oriented approach to gardening,” he noted.