St. Thomas Farmers Honoured

More than 40 farmers in St. Thomas received certificates and plaques for their contribution to agriculture, at an awards ceremony and fun day held recently at the Good Year sports ground in the parish.
Farmers who contributed over 15 years received gold awards, while those with 10 to 15 years service received silver awards. Bronze awards were presented to farmers with five to 10 years service. Serge Island Dairies Limited in Seaforth received a plaque for being the most outstanding contributor to agriculture and community development.
Samuel Miller was among the many farmers who won an award in the gold category. Mr. Miller who has been involved in agriculture for over 40 years is currently growing vegetables and fruit tree crops on his 1.5-hectare plot in Yallahs. He plans to establish fruit tree crops on another two hectares (5 acres) in Leithhall, St. Thomas.
Mr. Miller said his passion for farming began when, as a child, he would assist his father, who is also a farmer.
At the moment, he said there are two main concerns – praedial larceny, and finding markets for his produce. In relation to markets, he proposes that a reliable marketing system be established in the parish by the Government or an agency.
Mr. Miller said that praedial larceny was a very serious problem for the farmers. “It is very hard to control, but we are working with the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) group and the police in that regard,” he told JIS News.
The other awardees in the gold category were Herman Johnson, Eric Carty, Lawrence Telfer, Olive McKenzie, Winston Brown, Leonie Gillespie, Winston Stanley, Lorna Pennicott, and Alvira Mitchell. Clifton Parris, Parish Manager for the JAS and Co-ordinator of the function said that the ceremony was born out of an idea to promote the cultivation of local foods and to have farmers communicate with each other and the financial service providers in the parish.
He pointed out that the event would be an annual affair, as there was a need to showcase what “the farmers have done and continue to do under severe constraints.”
Mr. Parris said that it is necessary to rejuvenate the farmers, as the number of JAS groups has declined from 67 to less than 20 in the parish.
“I really see the need for us to energise the farmer, to bring back the love, to bring back the productivity,” he added.
Minister of State in the Ministry of Housing, Transport, Water and Works, and Member of Parliament for Eastern St. Thomas, Dr. Fenton Ferguson, congratulated the organizers for hosting the function and for displaying best practices in agriculture. He also commended the farmers for their commitment to the agricultural sector.
Despite the challenges, Dr. Ferguson said, a lot had been done to boost agriculture in the parish, through the Morant-Yallahs Agricultural Development Programme, the Hillside Farmers Support Project, the Agricultural Support Services Project, and the Eastern Jamaica Agricultural Support Programme.
The function was part of activities to celebrate National Farmers’ Month (April) in the parish. It was organized by the JAS and its associate branch societies.

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