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From chef to farmer: the Ramon Rowe story

Sunday, November 10, 2019

In the beginning, St Thomas-based farmer Ramon Rowe had no intention of making farming a career. After all, he studied culinary arts and had a satisfying job as a chef.

However, one day he decided he wanted more. Farming was the answer.

“I wanted to be my own boss, so I decided that farming was the way for me,” Rowe explained.

He told the Jamaica Observer that he recognised the benefits of farming from the age of 12 when his father Charles gave him 50 baby chicks to raise as a means of financing his education through primary and high school. That helped take the burden off his mother, Lelieth McKenzie, for whom farming was the main source of income.

While balancing school and farming, Rowe lost some of his broiler birds, but he recouped by expanding his operation to include livestock and crops.

Upon leaving Seaforth High, he struggled to choose a career path because he had left with only one subject, but his mother encouraged him to continue his education, and secured funding to that end.

Some of the funds went towards the purchase of two pigs, while the remainder was used to pay for evening classes.

Rowe was successful in obtaining the subjects necessary to pursue tertiary education, and enrolled in the hospitality and tourism management programme at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE).

The funds from the pig farm, which had by now epnaded to ovr 400 pigs with his mother's help, financed Rowe's way through CASE, from which he graduated with an associate degree in food and beverage management in 2008.

After a stint in the hospitality sector on the North Coast, Rowe took up the position of head chef at a catering outfit. But after years of what he described as disappointments, he acquired three acres of land in Heartease, St Thomas where he grows melon, onion, and other cash crops, as well as raises broiler birds and pigs.

Looking back, Rowe, who has been named a Nutramix Youth in Agriculture ambassador, said some of his peers were skeptical when he decided to get into farming.

“Some were okay with it while some were skeptical. They said most farmers that they know do not drive and they live in one set of clothes. They also said I have an associate degree in food and beverage so why would I want to choose farming,” Rowe disclosed.

But he has no regrets.

“Agriculture made me an educated and successful farmer,” said the 32-year old, who also credited his mother with much of his success to date.

His farm employs two, and supplies market vendors, fruit stall vendors and supermarkets with produce.

Of teh Nutramix title, Rowe said: “This acknowledgement will inspire and encourage other youngsters to get into agriculture and enjoy its benefits.”