Samantha Thomas-Myrie: An agent for change in agriculture

Monday, September 10, 2018

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ON Saturday, August 4, 24-year-old Samantha Thomas-Myrie was crowned the Nutramix National Farm Queen. Thomas-Myrie's win makes it the first time in the 55 years of the staging of the competition that the crown would travel to the parish of Hanover. Held annually at the Denbigh Agricultural & Industrial Show, Farm Queen is one of the major highlights of the three-day extravaganza. The competition highlights the often-overlooked intellectual side of the agricultural sector, shining a light on the work of women in the field.

Thomas-Myrie grew up in George's Pen, Clarendon with both parents — her mother Jean and father Alfredo — and attended Denbigh High School.

Her love for agriculture was moulded by her grandfather, Herbert Atkinson, who owned a herd of goats.

She reminisced on her passion for The Discovery Channel growing up and how she shared this passion with her cousins whom she enjoyed watching Man in the Wilderness with.

“On several occasions we would go into the bushes and we would camp out and stuff. Our parents really encouraged it,” she said.

She credits her 4H leader and grade seven form teacher Shelly-Ann Bent who introduced her to the 4H Club when she started high school.

“I learned a lot. The first event I entered in 4H was Goat Care and Management and through that I garnered a lot of information, and it pushed me to want to know more,” she said.

After graduating from high school, Thomas-Myrie matriculated to the College of Agriculture, Science & Education; however, illness would not allow her to complete. Her determination was however stronger than her illness and she enrolled at the Montego Bay Community College. This time she completed her associate degree in agricultural technology while on the dean's list for two straight years with the highest GPA.

Now the national ambassador for not only agriculture, but women in agriculture, Thomas-Myrie said her mission is to continue to defy the odds and denounce the preconceived ideas of women in agriculture.

“I do not see people's perception as a limit and I try always to defy the odds. If you tell me that I cannot do it, I'm gonna show you that I can do it and I have the capabilities,” she said.

She added: “If you are a woman and you feel that yes, you can achieve whatever you've set out to, then do it. Go ahead and do it because at the end of the day it is you that will benefit from it and it is you who will be able to put yourself there.”

Now with a crown, a title and a mandate to carry out, Thomas-Myrie said her reign will be focused on lobbying for the implementation of agricultural education in primary and infant schools as an extracurricular activity in nourishing a rich foundation for young minds.

“Children aren't educated enough about agriculture. It is mostly in high school that you find it being taught through the 4H Club. I don't want to educate children about the fork and the hoe; they already know about that. I want to educate them about the different branches of agriculture.”

She added: “I am really grateful for the opportunity to make my mark on agriculture because I know that I can be an agent for change. I've done it with my students through the 4H Club. I know that I am able to change the face of agriculture and how they look on agriculture.”

Her family owns and operates Happy Produce Limited now located in Clarendon and St Catherine. Happy Produce started out as a small pepper farming project in Clarendon, which after a couple of years started to expand, and now has Scotch bonnet peppers, West Indian red peppers, bell peppers, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, callaloo, and cabbage. It serves restaurants and small hotels in the surroundings.

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