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RYEEPing from the soil

Althea Dunkley makes agriculture her business

Sunday, November 03, 2019

With a family of seven to support financially, Althea Dunkley decided to pursue agriculture as a business. After all, her parents had taught her about farming from a young age.

“Farming taught me how to be a businesswoman and to seek different opportunities in agriculture,” said the 25-year-old Raheen, St Elizabeth, resident.

She continued: “My father gave us [her and her siblings] each a pig when we were younger. He taught us how to make money because the money we made from the pigs, each of us kept it.”

Raised by farmers, Dunkley and her siblings each learnt to be young entrepreneurs, raising and selling different livestock their father gave them. They also learned how to develop and execute a business plan from the principles their father taught.

While attending Black River High School, the young woman allowed peer pressure to steer her away from farming and its stigmatised image of a lowly station involving dirty, muddy clothes. But upon completing her secondary studies, she began exploring the possibility of pursuing business in the field.

As part of that journey, Dunkley enrolled in the Rural Youth Economic Empowerment Programme (RYEEP), an entrepreneurial training programme organised by the Jamaica 4H Clubs in partnership with the HEART Trust/NTSA. She got the opportunity to participate in various shows, such as Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show, and gain the vast knowledge she needed to be a successful farmer.

“I became a part of the 4H Club I then I enrolled in RYEEP. I received an award on Youth Day at Denbigh in August for Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Agriculture and Entrepreneurship for the parish,” Althea shared.

After completing the programme, Dunkley received a grant to start a business venture in which she purchased 4,000 Scotch bonnet pepper seedlings. She later added sweet corn, pumpkin, sorrel, cows and layer birds, which she took over from her mother. She intends to continue to expanding the business, which she operates on lands leased from her stepfather in the fields of the Appleton sugar cane estate.

As a Nutramix Youth in Agriculture ambassador, Dunkley encourages young people in her community and the country at large to pursue meaningful careers in agriculture.

Said Dunkley: “Agriculture is a vital one and there is always something new to learn. Most of our lives revolve around the agriculture sector.”

“Serious farmers are making headlines in agriculture, when compared to other professions. Farming does not have to be a full-time job, and it can be profitable if you are serious about it. The youth of today should consider pursuing this as a profession,” said Dunkley.

As for the Nutramix accolade, the young woman said it serves as encouragement to work even harder.

“I was excited, because when you work hard you have to expect the unexpected. It also signifies that I must be doing something good; it also encourages me to work harder,” she said.