Veteran St. James farmer, Carlton Smith, strongly believes that the agricultural industry holds the solution to Jamaica’s economic challenges.
He supports the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries ‘Eat What You Grow, Grow What You Eat’ campaign, and suggested that more idle land should be put into production so that the country can feed itself and reduce the spending on imported items.
“I believe that farming can rescue Jamaica out of the economic problems the country is facing right now. If we cultivate most of the products that we use here, it would be cheaper for us. A lot of lands are available,” he stated.
Noting the high price of imported corn, he argued that “if we plant our own corn for animal feed, it would be better for us because the corn from abroad makes the feed much more expensive.”
A champion cattle farmer, Mr. Smith has dedicated some 40 years to the agriculture sector. He is a fixture at all major agricultural shows staged in the western region, such as Hague and Montpelier, and has won over 300 trophies, plaques, certificates, gift packages, and cash prizes over the years.
Mr. Smith started farming at the age of 15, planting vegetables on a small plot on his family land in Content. He told JIS News he was motivated by the hard work and dedication of his late father, Timothy Smith, who himself was an outstanding farmer.
“I grew up seeing my father doing farming and producing some amazingly large onions, carrots, yams and other ground provisions and winning lots of first prizes for these. I walk in his footsteps because I love to see what he was doing in farming. He is my motivation and encouragement and I love it very much and would never give up. I believe that is only sickness that can take me out of farming,” he said.
Mr. Smith took over the farm when his father died and continued the tradition of excellence, planting various cash crops including vegetables, yams, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, rearing small livestock such as goats and pigs, and a few cows.
As he got more involved in agricultural shows and winning trophies for his prized cattle, he dedicated more of his time and efforts to cattle farming.
The farm has won the admiration of community members, business leaders, and others in the agriculture industry.
Having started at an early age, Mr. Smith said he wants to see more young people involved in agriculture.
He suggested that through the efforts of the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), community groups should be formed and the youth encouraged to become members, where they could be provided with land and other assistance.
He is also calling for the establishment of school gardens in all institutions, so as to motivate young people to take up farming as an occupation, and for Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) Branches to be established in all communities, where farmers could come together and share their ideas and expertise, while motivating the youth to see farming as a profitable way of life.
Mr. Smith, like most farmers, identified praedial larceny as a major challenge and called for larcenists to be harshly punished.
He also advised farmers to make every effort to get registered at the RADA offices so that they can access benefits and assistance.
“If you are a farmer and you are doing your farming, you must be registered so that when required, you can show your identification as a farmer to anybody,” he said.
By Glenis Rose, JIS Reporter