Bye, bye boardroom. Hello field!

Career & Education

Bye, bye boardroom. Hello field!

Cousins partner in agro-produce business

Sunday, December 08, 2019

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Residents of New Hall district in Manchester Citerina Atkins and her cousin Roike Campbell wanted to make a valuable contribution to their community.

“We always wanted to contribute to the development of our community and farming was the perfect avenue to do so, while giving us the opportunity to be business owners. So, it was a win-win situation for us,” Atkins explained, adding: “Farming is the lifeblood of an economy and being involved in it allows us to contribute directly to the development of the economy. We also find that to be very fulfilling.”

The duo quit their jobs in corporate Jamaica — Campbell in December last year and Atkins early this year — to focus on a joint venture in farming.

“We quit our jobs because we are serious about farming and we decided to have a more hands-on approach to our business. We believe it was necessary to bring the farm to a level where it was profitable,” Atkins told the Jamaica Observer.

Gerty's Agro-Produce, named after their decreased grandmother, is situated on 20 acres of land in the parish and produces Scotch bonnet pepper, West Indian red pepper, sweet potato, Irish potato, sweet pepper and pumpkin.

Atkins, 28, and 29-year-old Campbell are past students of DeCarteret College. After high school, Atkins studied banking and finance at the University of the West Indies. Campbell, on the other hand, studied Information Technology at the University of Technology, Jamaica.

After completing her degree in 2015, Atkins worked at an insurance company for a year. Roike secured a management role in information technology, but feeling unfulfilled, he diverted his focus to farming and began discussing his plans with Atkins.

While he searched for investors to bring the business proposal to life, Atkins began her research into successful farms and stumbled upon Abbey's Garden, managed by Young Champion Farmer and Nutramix Youth in Agriculture Ambassador, Diandra Rowe. Impressed with Rowe's farm, she began to expand her knowledge by enrolling in classes to learn about aquaponics and other farming techniques.

“We didn't have any prior knowledge about farming, however, we utilised the Internet and RADA (Rural Agricultural Development Agency) and gathered information along the way,” Atkins said.

She added: “We love business, so once we started to view farming as a business and realised the importance of the agriculture sector in the Jamaican economy, and the kind of technologies that can be used to improve the craft, we automatically fell in love with it.”

With investment from their cousins Jermoy White, Kerone Harrison, Chavaughn Whyte and Campbell's father Deon, Gerty's Agro-Produce was established in 2018.

The cousins' experience as entrepreneurs started with difficulties, but luckily, Atkins' mother, Enid White maintained operation of the farm until they took over full time.

“Our peers supported us because they knew we are very entrepreneurial and were always been brave enough to take the risk of going into business for ourselves,” Atkins said.

The produce from their farm supplies exporters, agro processors, market vendors and restaurants in Manchester and surrounding parishes.

“The high point of this journey is the fact that we have been able to provide employment for the residents of the community, especially for our female farmers,” the young woman shared.

The farm employs between four and 10 farmhands depending on crop production.

Atkins and Campbell are Nutramix Youth in Agriculture ambassadors. Both are excited about the recognition.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and we are pleased to know that farming facilitated this kind of exposure.”

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