Farmers with a heart

Annotto Bay couple give away a lot of what they grow

Observer staff reporter

Sunday, November 18, 2018

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JACQUELINE Nelson and Nigel Swaby spend most days together on their two-acre farm in St Mary's coastal town, Annotto Bay.

In fact, the couple has been consistently farming together for seven years, though Swaby has over three decades of experience in the field.

Together, the two own several businesses in the parish, including two older farms and all have contributed to the construction of the house they now share, putting their children through secondary school and should cover the cost of college. The farm in Annotto Bay — last of the three — is a source of food for residents in the community, the couple said.

“From being with Nigel just the chemistry and everything [and] me liking goats and cows made me start farming and now I'm seven years in. Until him, I never met anyone who was interested in farming and I always wanted to do it, so him give me the motivation. Him help me to start. When him go in the bush, me always go with him so we'll always be together,” Nelson told the Jamaica Observer during a recent tour of the farm.

“But apart from that, we have shops and bars. We have other business that we do all over St Mary, but mi like this farming thing and him motivate me. He's really a pusher, so mi just come behind him,” Nelson added.

The two have registered with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority — the statutory body under the Ministry of Agriculture which channels State benefits to farmers — with the intention to grow and sell Irish potatoes. They also plant callaloo, pak choi, cucumber, red peas, green bean, tomato, corn, pumpkin, sorrel, sweet pepper and rear cows and goats (Boer and Nubian).

“I sell in Annotto Bay market on Fridays and we get orders, but we give away a lot to the people of the community — both those in need and those who are not. There are people in the community who don't have any money. So whatever comes in we have to give them. You don't have to be special. People always need food. We do give away a lot because if you give you will always receive, and that is what we practise as a family. We love what we do, not like, we love. This is from our heart,” Nelson said.

“You have to have dedication and be dedicated to it. A nuh just come and plant and nuh come back. We have to be here every day, from in the morning go straight back till night. We get up from 'bout 4:00 [am] and we a reach in all 12:00 [am] sometimes. You haffi weed, you haffi spray, you haffi make sure nuh worm nuh take up your crop. It's a lot of stuff you have to do,” the 50-year-old woman said.

Swaby, at the same time, told the Sunday Observer that the third farm is serving as motivation to young people in the community.

“Annotto Bay is like town, so farming is country to nuff people. But since we start up a farm here we notice it a give di youth them energy. A nuff youth a tek up and a head to di land seh them a go do some farming. Them a come and ask me a lot a question about how the thing go, yuh know, and mi try fi push them and motivate them same way. So it have a lot a energy pon the people them,” the 48-year-old man said.

“Mi mek them know seh a nuff work still; we work seven days a week. This is like our nine to five. A wi bread and butter. If you expect fi get from it, me mek them know them affi put in the work. All when it touch Friday and Saturday me lef' her here (Annotto Bay farm) and touch pon the other two farms and she work by herself, then go market. This farm young, so we affi give it most of the attention right now because it will easy fi pick up disease and worms,” he said.

The couple told the Sunday Observer that they are hoping to expand the Annotto Bay farm and eventually host schoolchildren.

“We want to go on a wider scale. We wouldn't mind we get a next 15 acres of land where we say yeah, we just put in the hard work and see what materialises. I am not lazy and he is not lazy, so we'll both do the work. This farm is not where we want to stop, we want to continue building,” Nelson said.

“I would like to get some of the kids from Annotto Bay, because the area has a lot of schools, and give them a tour and it could be like a learning experience for them. We want the smaller kids to come — basic and all-age — because we want to label things and have them read and learn what they are. We want them to understand what farming is and for them to know that it is okay to [pursue] it and that nothing is wrong with it,” Nelson said.

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