Career & Education

Young champion farmer Matthew Thomas

Sunday, August 04, 2019

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Sixteen-year-old Matthew Thomas has always had a competitive spirit. It has seen him win several awards at the annual Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show, a tally which the youngster intends on increasing at this year's staging set for this weekend, August 4-6.

Thomas, an aspiring veterinarian who holds multiple champion titles, will enter his cattle in three categories this year.

“I will be entering two bulls in the Other Beef Breeds Over 3 Years and Under 5; one bull in the Other Beef Breeds 2-3 Years old; and a dairy bull in 2-3 years old,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

Thomas grew up around dairy farmers, trainers, veterinarians and nutritionists, and has been competing at Denbigh each year since he was 12, earning his first Champion award (Supreme Champion daity Heifer) at the age of 13. His other accolades include Supreme Champion Raw Sheep (2015), Champion Bull (Other Beef Breeds, 2017 and 2018); and Champion Diary Heifer (Other Dairy Breeds, 2016 and 2017).

“Winning the awards signifies to me that all the hard work that is put into the animals has not been in vain. It also serves as motivation to continue my journey in agriculture,” the teenager said.

Thomas explained how he prepares his animals for the internationally recognised agriculture event.

“As it gets closer to Denbigh each year, we start to familiarise our animals with the harnesses we use so that when we parade them in the ring they are not as agitated and uncomfortable. We also increase the personal interaction they are exposed to through practising them to lead so that parading is easier and they are not easily startled when the crowd is around them,” he said.

Thomas has over 180 heads of cattle, which are at his family's farm in Gutters, St Catherine. He has 60 goats, which are kept on lands owned by a friend in Old Harbour, while his flock of 30 sheep on a friend's farm in Rhymesbury, Clarendon.

“I have been involved in cattle and sheep farming ever since birth. My interest developed after I was introduced to animals at a very early age. My father would always take me to the farm with him on weekends and I instantly gravitated toward the animals. From there on, my love for animals and farming continued to grow,” he told Career & Education.

He continued, “What I like most about the animals is the interaction I have with them especially the cows. I always like to say that just like humans they all have little personalities about them and they can be some of the most caring animals toward each other”.

Thomas grew up in Four Paths, Clarendon and is a past student of Glenmuir High School. He currently attends Timber Creek High School in Florida and is simultaneously pursuing courses at Valencia College.

“I will graduate from Valencia and Timber Creek at the same time with an Associate of Arts Degree and my high school diploma. From there, I plan to attend college,” said Thomas.

Now home for the holidays, Thomas says his father has taken over the responsibility of caring for the animals in his absence.

“My father has more responsibility with the animals in the sense that I am no longer always around to help. However, I do take every chance I get, including all holidays, to come home and be with my family and to go out onto the farm,” the teen said.

Thomas is a Nutramix Youth in Agriculture ambassador and is featured on the company's the glossy 2019 calendar along with 11 other young farmers. His goats and sheep will be on display at the Nutramix AI display centre during this year's Denbigh Agricultural Industrial Food Show.


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