HER life has been one committed to developing the agricultural sector and uplifting women, and even at 83-years-old, Albertha Love continues to do both in her Portland community of Seaman's Valley.
Despite her age, the senior citizen is still productive enough to farm her ground and agile enough to climb 20 flights of stairs with ease. Farming for her is both a livelihood and reprieve and she has found very fertile ground to carry out her trade in the parish of Portland, although she was born in St Mary and raised in Kingston.
Meet Albertha Love
Love was taken to Portland at 26-years-old by her husband who was an army veteran who had been very active during the second World War. Both met in Kingston and relocated to Seaman's Valley after getting married. The move was a culture shock for Love to say the least, because instead of the theatres and shopping expeditions the urban life had afforded her, she was now thrust into a new life in a deep rural community.
"When I came to Portland, there weren't plenty houses here. Me coming from Kingston was used to my water and light," she recounted.
"I sort of never feel comfortable, so I went back to Kingston. But after having my children and deciding that well, we can't buy a place in Kingston and we have to live in the one-bedroom, then we decided to come back here," she said.
The couple purchased 10 acres of farm land, built a house and continued the process of making a good life for themselves and their three children.
"We started to plant banana and dasheen and planted a lot of coconuts and lumber trees and orange and breadfruit and we did our chicken farming," she said.
But unlike many of the women in those days, she was not content to just stay at home all day and cook and clean.
"When I first came here, women never used to go to bush (farm), they only cooked their men's food. But then I came and started working and when they see me come and go to the boxing plant with banana and so forth -- that time they used to have the banana board come and buy banana from us -- and when they see me bring out the banana, they start to get jealous and they start to work," Love recalled.
After farming for some time, she signed up with the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) and was selected by the entity to do a farmers' training course at Twickenham Park. After that course, she started doing voluntary service for the society and continued working along with the group in a voluntary capacity for 25 years.
Why we love her
"During my years of service, I was instrumental in the allocation of street lights in the district, indigent housing, improvement and the preservation of the Portland parish pavilion of Denbigh," she said.
When the Bureau of Women's Affairs started their branch in Port Antonio in the 1970s, Love immediately got on board and assisted the group with some of their initiatives. She was recognised by the agency in 2010 for outstanding service to the community.
"We kept meetings and tried to motivate the women to be independent and stop depending on men to give them this and that. I got fliers and carried them around to give them to read," she said.
"They started to handle themselves differently. They started to work their own field and plant their own banana and go to the market and sell their things and they became more independent than they were when I came here," she added.
She said she was inspired by her mother to never be too dependent on anyone, but instead to work hard to earn her keep.
"My mother was a very hardworking lady, she had 10 of us. My father was there too, but it's my mother who did all the labour. She used to do all the farming and she used to go to the market and sell," she said.
But despite all that she has done for her community, Love's farm is not immune to praedial larceny and so the senior citizen is accustomed to waking up and seeing her prized produce missing from her farm. This, coupled with the general economic downturn, has no doubt impacted on her pocket and so she has had to find other means of supporting herself and her family. The obvious thing that came to mind was to start making craft items which she sold.
"That's how I make my living too. While the farm is going on, I make things here and I make things and sell. I didn't have a good education so I wanted my children to get a good education and so I had to work hard on that, because what I missed out, they must get it," she contended.
Love said she had always loved craft and gradually taught herself how to make various pieces. She also did a six-week sewing course with Singer and also attended senior citizens meetings organised by her church and the community where persons from agencies such as the Salvation Army would teach her various techniques. Love was not selfish with her skills and last year started a craft class for women living near her, so she could impart her knowledge of the trade.
Life hasn't always been kind
Life unfortunately has not been as kind to the senior citizen as she has been to her neighbours. Her eldest son, who is now in his 50s, was born with a brain condition which has rendered him completely dependent on her, and her second son is mentally challenged. Just one month after learning that the son she had invested a lot in was of unsound mind, Love was hit with yet another tragedy. Her husband's motor car went over the edge of a cliff while coming around a bend on the Junction Road in 1978, taking him out of her life for good.
It would have seemed then that she had been given her fair share of troubles for a lifetime, but there was even more loss to come. In 1980, her beloved mother's throat was slashed by thieves. The image of herself mopping up the bloody floor alone following her mother's death is still etched in her mind, although she said she has not been able to remember much about her life prior to her mother's death.
"She was 97 years old when they killed her and she had gone to market the Saturday, came back the Saturday night, and they killed her the Monday morning in her house. They believed she had money tied up," Love explained.
Then came Hurricane Gilbert in 1988 destroying most of her produce and her livestock. Subsequent hurricanes came and did further damage to her farm and her house which now leaks with just the slightest bit of shower.
Despite all her struggles, the
elderly woman is not yet ready to
call it quits, and each day she gets
up even more energised to make
her living and go out and do good.
She is able to do this by thinking on
the positives, such as the fact that
she and her husband were given
the foresight, which made them
invest in Portland so many years
“I don’t just think on the present,
I think about the future, because I
always said that I don’t want when I
reach this age, I don’t have
anywhere to live, so we sacrificed
until we got used to it,” she said.