Career & Education

Building on dad's legacy

Christon Jones follows dad Christopher into cattle rearing

Sunday, June 16, 2019

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Ask 20-year-old Christon Jones why he is pursuing agricultural studies with hopes of specialising in veterinary medicine and he'll tell you in one word — dad.

His father, Christopher Jones, owns and operates a cattle farm in Steerfield, St Ann.

“I had a close relationship with my father and always wanted to stick by him. Every day as he journeyed to the farm I would accompany him,” he expounded in an interview with the Jamaica Observer last week.

“My father was very influential in my decision and journey into farming, as I always looked up to him,” he added.

That bond between father and son extended to the animals, with the younger Jones shedding tears and begging his father to reconsider when it came time to sell animals.

“I remember during high school, we had a heifer with a maggot wound and every morning I would journey to the farm from as early as 4:00 am in the cold and dark to care for that animal so I could reach back early for school by 7:00 am,” the young man shared, giving details about how invested he was in caring for the animals.

He would soon come to terms with selling them.

“I assisted with the cattle where I would help to run fences on weekends, clean pastures, deworm animals and select animals for purchase,” he said.

Having accumulated years of on the job training and experience, the young man said his father suggested that he choose agriculture as a profession “because it is the way to feed my country and my family, and I will never go hungry”.

“He was [also] concerned that whenever he watched Schools Challenge Quiz on television, none of the students said they wanted to get into farming,” Jones told Career & Education.

On his father's urging, coupled with encouragement from his agriculture teacher in high school, extension officers at the St Ann RADA office where he did voluntary service, and champion bull trainer Sonique Bennett whom he met at a staging of the Denbigh agricultural show, Jones headed off to the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE), where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Animal Science. He hopes to complete the programme in May next year, after which he intendes to take up veterinary medicine in New Zealand or Australia, specialising in reproductive physiology.

“I then intend to come back home to improve local cattle breeds, especially the Jamaica Black breed of cattle whose population is currently depleting,” said Jones.

And he has plans to continue his father's business.

“I've already started by owning some of the animals on the farm. My first animal was a bull I bought while I was in high school. I used the proceeds from a partner I was in, after saving up my lunch money each week. I sold that bull and bought two more and that's how my herd continued to grow,” he disclosed.

But even with all the encouragement and positive feedback, Jones told an all-too-familiar story of contempt and discouragement at the hands of his peers for his career choice.

“I faced a lot of criticism in the selection of farming as they always said that I am better than that and that someone with my intellect should not do such a thing. They said I should be aiming to become a surgeon or something else. However, my parents always taught me that I should always work towards the goals that I desire and let nobody deter me from achieving what I wanted. Truth be told, it motivated me to excel in what I wanted and to show them the true picture of agriculture,” he said.

The past student of Golden Grove All Age and Ferncourt High has not given credence to the dissenting views. In fact, he seems to be having the last laugh.

In 2017 Jones was the recipient of the Roger Clarke Memorial Scholarship, awarded annually to an outstanding student at CASE based on performance in the first year of college. The successful student is interviewed and chosen, in conjunction with the Human Resources Department of the CB Group, from a shortlist recommended by the CASE board.

The aim of the scholarship is to encourage young people to see agriculture as a viable field to pursue professionally. The initiative is the brainchild of the CB Group, and part of its corporate responsibility is to help fund this type of dream in memory of the late agriculture minister.

“Being the recipient of the Roger Clarke scholarship has assisted me in several ways: helping to ease the stress of tuition and allowing me to focus more on my studies. I am forever grateful to the CB group of companies,” Jones told Career & Education last week.

In addition to that honour, last year he and 11 others were named Nutramix Youth in Agriculture Ambassadors.

“It really meant a lot to me,” he said of the ambassadorship. “I was overwhelmed when I was informed that I was going to be participating as a representative for the youth and an ambassador for agriculture. I felt proud of myself to know that my work and contribution to the sector is being recognised by such reputable and influential stakeholders,” he said.

The 2019 Nutramix Youth in Agriculture Ambassadors are featured on a glossy, 28-page calendar.

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