Fifty two year-old Ansel Williams from Trelawny, is an accomplished yam farmer, who has made a ‘decent’ livelihood out of his lifelong occupation, which began when he was just 13 years old.
He proudly cites many creditable achievements, which were made possible as a result of his efforts, and the accumulation of savings from his ‘yam money’ over many years.
From the earnings of his many acres of yam located in the fertile ‘yam town’ of Lowe River, in Southern Trelawny, he has been able to send his five children to high school, owned five motor vehicles and built and extensively refurbished his large house.
Born in the community of Lowe River, Mr. Williams was easily attracted to yam farming, as that was the livelihood of the majority of working young people.
“During my early years, I was thinking of no other profession than to be a yam farmer. While living with my grandmother, I would often go to the nearby yam fields and watch the men at work. Sometimes I would sneak away from school to gather up yam heads from my friends to start my own little plot, and my grandmother was very upset with me. Many times she would beat me, whenever she found out that I was not in school. This, however, did not change how I felt about being a yam farmer. I took my beatings and punishment, but continued to spend more and more time in my little plot, because I really loved what I was doing,” Mr. Williams tells JIS News.
He speaks glowingly of the level of inspiration and guidance from his grandfather, Renarto Williams, and grandmother, Riverta Williams, who, even though in full agreement that he should attend school and leave the farming until he was of age, would save many yam heads for him whenever they reaped yam from their field.
“My grandfather and grandmother used to be big yam farmers and they would always give me yam heads, because they knew how interested I was. Most times I would go to their farm and help them to work and this resulted in me getting lots of yam heads. I did not have to buy any. That’s how I started in yam farming,” Mr. Williams says.
Yam farmer Ansel Williams on his field of over 10 acres of yam in Lowe River, Trelawny.
He recounted the days when working in the fields became very tough and challenging, as most of the work had to be done manually. According to Mr. Williams, there was little possibility of acquiring tractors to assist in land preparation, so men had to be employed to do the work. They would clear the land using machetes and afterwards would use forks to plough the soil and make the yam hills or yam banks for the planting of the yam heads.
Mr. Williams has reaped much success in farming, but has also experienced losses.
“In 2005 I purchased a truck to transport the harvested yam to market and some time after when I experienced a bumper crop, I made arrangements with a buyer who was exporting yam to foreign. He came to my farm and collected two truck loads of yellow yam, valued at $1.1 million. He agreed to return a certain time to pay for the shipment, but until this day I have not received any payment for my yam. I have been told by him that the yams got spoilt on the ship and all other types of excuses, but until now no money. I have called that a loss and have given up hope of receiving my money,” he says.
This accomplished yam farmer has also reached out to the struggling farmers and the youths in and around the community.
“I have also made regular contributions to schools and churches and even to functions being held in the community, because God has blessed me and my family and I give back to my community, so youths, older ones and the less fortunate can benefit,” he tells JIS News.
He has no regrets in his chosen occupation, and has been encouraging the young people and ‘able-bodied’ men of the community to get involved in farming.
Mr. Williams tells JIS News that he strongly believes that if more people buy into the idea that Jamaicans must begin to eat what they grow and grow more of what they eat, then the country could rise to the heights of strength and prosperity.
The farmer, whose children include a nurse, a businesswoman and a police, says that if he had the chance to do it all over again, he would definitely be a yam farmer.