JIS News

Cornel Henry, a parishioner of Highgate, St.Mary who copped the National Champion Farmer title has already made his mark in the agricultural sector. At the age of 23, he is the proud owner of ‘Fresh Pick’ natural juice company established last year, and is preparing to make it big on the international market.
Mr. Henry, who began his operation with the help of a cousin, thinks that young persons can definitely excel in his chosen profession.
“We use our papayas to make juices .and so from the farm, we built this juice company ‘Fresh Pick’ so we started out with that and now we’re bottling coconut water because we have coconut on the farm, a five acre block, not on the papaya property on a different property, and we thought, we have all these going to waste, why we don’t use them and we though coconut water was a good thing to bottle so we started bottling it,” he told JIS News.
According to the young Champion Farmer, Fresh Pick Juice Company was born out of Hi Pride Farms also operated by Henry where some 13,000 papayas trees are located. The dynamic young entrepreneur is also planning to plant another 5,000 trees.
He also has a long -stemmed hot pepper operation with some 6,000 plants, which yields approximately 25,000 pounds of pepper per week.
The young farmer professes a love for vegetation and confessed that it was this passion that drove him into creating Hi Pride Farms.
“I love fruits and trees and I was really thinking about what could I do to earn some money from this and also I like helping people, so farming is something that I grew up loving and learning,” he said, explaining that he not only has seventeen employees from the community working on the farm and four persons in the juice business, but that from sweet pepper production at the age of 17, he was able to help four less fortunate members of his community who were provided with food on a Sunday in collaboration with the ‘Hot Choice’ Youth Club, which he was a part of.
Mr. Henry has a strong farming family background as his grandfathers have been farming for years and he has at least two cousins who are now involved in the sector. One of them is Paul Henry whom he noted, helped to propel him into the industry with financial and other kinds of support and who has become major partner in his farming operations.
He also gives credit to Deano Stewart a pharmacist who gave him his first 2,000 pepper seeds, 1,500 of which he planted and was able to reap 500 to 600 pounds of pepper seeds per week. He also planted one acre of mixed crops including papaya, broccoli, cabbage hot and sweet pepper.
The entire papaya cultivation was wiped out by the dreaded Ring Spot disease but Mr. Henry says he started out again and with hard work, expanded his cultivation to three acres of papaya, which now stands at 13 acres. Each yield per acre produced about 4,000 pounds. Through the use of a mix of fertilizers and organic material from his 156 head pig farm as well as some chicken manure, his yield has increased to approximately 7,000 pounds per acre. Nothing is wasted on his farm as ‘rejected’ papaya is fed to the pigs.
“It’s an awesome feeling to be National Young champion farmer. Its about hard work, .I’m glad that I can be a role model so to speak for younger farmers so that young people can know that it not about dirtying up your hand. At the end of the day it pays off,” he told JIS News, noting that having started out with nothing, he now owned some 40 acres of land.
“It’s about a lot of hard work, if its raining, we can’t say we’re not going out, if we have to spray, we just have to spray, fertilise or reap at the right times, because the farm is like our home and we keep clean rows between the trees, we don’t allow the leaves or papaya to stay on the ground and rot because this encourages ring spot disease. We try to utilize good agricultural practices,” he explained.
Mr. Henry noted that thankfully his farm was not adversely affected by Hurricane Ivan last year as, in comparison to some farmers in Annotto Bay who experienced 75 per cent damage, only about 150 trees from some 13,000 were lost.
The young entrepreneur also intends to diversify into sweet potato production for the local and export market, puree from the hot pepper for export, and is now producing hams from his pig farm.