Career & Education

Following her father's footsteps

Sunday, June 09, 2019

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The constant theft of her family's livestock made Sonique Bennett's dream of studying veterinary science a challenge. But not one to give up, having adopted the trait from her father, the 24-year-old is today an award-winning bull trainer, and a recent graduate of the College of Agriculture Science and Education (CASE) where she completed a Bachelor of Science in Animal Sciences.

“Imagine raising your goat or cattle from they were born to maturity and then one morning you go to look for them and the only thing you see at the spot is animal intestines and blood. Not a pretty sight! Thousands of dollars lost to someone else who did not raise a single animal and no one to take responsibility for it as they come and go with the night. The plans that you had for those animals have been destroyed leaving you with no other option but to start all over,” Bennett told the Jamaica Observer, recounting one of the incidents in which her family was ravaged by praedial larceny.

Her father's farm in St James was the main source of livelihood for the family.

“With children to send to school and bills to pay, my dad had to find other means financially to keep afloat, but he never one day gave up because of it,” she added.

Bennett said her decision to become a farmer sprouted from her experience on her father's farm.

“I grew up on a farm that provided for our every need. I was always helping on the farm from I was young and that inspired me to get into agriculture. When you plant crops and watch them blossom in that bountiful harvest, and the animals grow from a young goat kid or calf or that baby chick to exactly what you wanted, there is nothing else you could ask for. Even with the discouragement that farming is just dirty work and the talk that I was better than farming, I saw it as a way through as it has taken me to where I am. Someone has to become the farmer to feed the country and I am one of those farmers and I am proud to be one,” she said.

She also learned several valuable lessons, among them the value of hard work, grit, determination, responsibility.

“My dad always said, 'there will be obstacles so just learn the lesson, pick yourself up and move on',” she recounted.

It was also on her father's farm, where she and her siblings were assigned various chores, that Bennett's love for caring for animals developed.

“It was our duty from a tender age to help in harvesting produce for the market and looking about the animals. My siblings and I would make sure the pigs and chicken were fed. The animals grabbed my attention and I got the responsibility to take care and nurture them from they were small until they grew and had younger ones. As the animals grew, so did my love for them. Whenever they got sick, I was always curious how to help them get better without losing them, and I would try some home remedies to treat them. And from there on my interest in the veterinarian field began. Being here at CASE for four years and interacting with animals has even sparked my interest more,” she told Career & Education.

Bennett recounted that she started training female cattle in her first year of college when a friend, Godfrey, introduced her to it. He had to leave the island and left her in charge of the training team and his bull which he had trained.

“I took up the task and it had become a rewarding one that year. He (the bull) won Supreme Dairy Bull at the Denbigh Agricultural & Food Show. Training cattle can be rewarding as it teaches you to be patient, and to be dedicated. You have to be dedicated in making sure that the animal is well trained and in the best shape to go up against other competitors. The feeling you get after you have won is a great one,” she said.

Now that she has completed her studies, Bennett hopes to become a veterinarian, contributing to the care and welfare of animals, and to continue with small ruminant production which she had started before leaving for college.

“Small ruminant production is slowly growing but it's not enough to fill the gap of the amount of chevon and mutton that the country imports,” the young woman said.

For her pursuits and achievements in agriculture, Bennett was chosen as one of the 2019 Nutramix Youth in Agriculture Ambassadors and is featured on the company's calendar this year.

“It signified that no matter what you do, do it to the best of your ability because somewhere out there someone is looking at you without you even knowing. This recognition from Nutramix will create numerous opportunities not only for me, but all the ambassadors, to spread and share their story about how agriculture has made them what they are today and to also show our young generation that many things are possible from agriculture.

“Agriculture is the life of any economy. It is one of the most reliable aspects of any economy that can combat food security and the increasing demand of employment in today's economy. As the world continues to grow, agriculture is needed to feed its growing population hence without agriculture there cannot be life and hence no production,” the young woman said.

As far as encouragement to others who may be hesitant to follow the agricultural path, Bennett said this: “Agriculture has numerous fields from which you can choose, and with the technology that is available today, agriculture has grown from riding iron forks to using equipment to get the job done. As we gain more knowledge about agriculture the ignorant discrimination of agriculture can be thrown away and accept the beauty of agriculture”.

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