Young St Elizabeth farmer wins multiple accolades

Career & Education

Young St Elizabeth farmer wins multiple accolades

Sunday, January 05, 2020

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What began as a dream for his parents has blossomed into reality and the root of a long-standing family tradition for 23-year-old Kemoy McKenzie.

The young farmer and entrepreneur is the proud operator of a 12-acre crop farm and a farm store called Kemz Agro Supplies, both in Top Hill, St Elizabeth.

McKenzie, who boasts the title Nutramix Youth in Agriculture Ambassador, won the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture's Youth in Agribusiness award for 2019.

“Being an ambassador for a platform to showcase my accomplishments with the hope of inspiring others, and encouraging persons to get into agriculture as a profession,” McKenzie told the Jamaica Observer.

As he tells it, farming was an inevitable career as, like several of the other yong people in the Nutramix Youth in Agriculture ambassadorship, his parents also eked out a living from the soil.

“I have been in a farming community and a farming family, so it was inevitable that I would have chosen that field as my career path,” McKenzie said.

His parents, Myonie Wright and Robert McKenzie, were crop and poultry farmers, meaning that he's been learning the family trade from him “yeye de a him knee”, as Jamaicans say.

McKenzie said one of the key lessons he gelaned from his parents over the years was the importance of good farm management practices.

“It is imperative and very important to employ good farming practices because if you don't, you won't be successful in farming. Good practices range from a lot of different areas such as the types of technologies you use to get best results, how you make your produce healthy for the consumers, and not overusing your chemicals. All three practices will allow you to produce at your full potential and as such you will be able to make a profit, because despite the fact that you may love farming, you should still treat it as a business,” he shared.

He utilises a number of techniques to prepare for unforeseen climate hazards, such as using rainwater harvesting and mulching, and he keeps thorough records of planting, spraying and crop rotation.

“While going to high school I was an astute business student. As such, I wanted to be an entrepreneur and change how we look at farming. I have always wanted to be my own boss because I like to work at my own pace. I always displayed good leadership qualities so I knew from then that I was ready for managing my own business,” the young man revealed.

McKenzie attended St Vincent Strambi Catholic High School in Bull Savannah, St Elizabeth, and Munro College.

“To be honest, agriculture is something that persons normally look down on despite the fact that it is what feeds them. They normally stigmatise it as dirty work. However, despite that, my peers were supportive of my decision to get into agriculture because most of the time I would bring fruits and vegetables to school for my teachers and friends and they were very surprised by the quality, and wanted more. So, they knew that I had a passion for farming and as such they were supportive of my decision to go into that profession,” he confided.

While he did not pursue tertiary education, McKenzie considers that his university came in the form of long hours and hard work tilling the soil. An early rise every morning with gruelling days were important sacrifices, from which he has already begun to reap beneficial rewards.

“Some of the highlights for me would be the profit that I make and knowing that I'm providing employment for my community. Producing quality goods for Jamaicans to consume is another highlight. However, some of the not-so-good moments of farming would be not getting market for your goods, the water crisis, praedial larceny, and buyers not paying for goods on a regular basis,” he said.

It has been three years since McKenzie started farming professionally, growing lettuce, watermelon, sweet pepper and tomatoes, among other crops. Four individuals are employed full-time on the farm.

The farm store, which employs three, has also proved valuable to the community.

“My farm store has been able to provide essential services to the community. These include easier access to farming products and offering advice to farmers on how to use chemicals,” the young man said.

McKenzie sells his goods to wholesales and vendors in surrounding communities and various markets islandwide.

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