North & East

Champion farmer beating the drought

BY SHANAE STEWART
Staff Reporter
stewarts@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, September 16, 2019

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The extensive drought affecting most of the island has left several farmers facing ruin but Michelle Black, who was crowned Champion Farmer at the recent 67th staging of the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show has found a way to beat the heat.

The St Ann-based Black, who operates the Golden Dutchie Farm, has managed to minimise her losses by practising smart farming.

According to Black, who has been farming for the past nine years, she adjusted how she operated the farm to reduce the impact of the drought.

She pointed out that before the drought she was able to export yams but this has to come to a halt and that has been her hardest hit.

“Now that the time is dry we don't export what we usually do [but] we are now supplying hotels and major supermarkets. We haven't lost anything for this year…well, in a sense we lost because we had to produce less according to the amount of water we had,” Black told the Jamaica Observer North & East

“With that being said, I would like to thank the Rural Agriculture Development Authority (RADA) for being a tower of strength as they trucked water to us. Peter Thompson, chief executive officer of RADA, I really want to thank him for his help.

“And, now that we are getting rain, it's a little bit better for us and so now we are able to produce the amount of crops that we used to. We do sweet peppers, yam, lettuce and several herbs and spices,” said Black, who started out with only 600 hills of yam.

Today she has more than 40,000 hills of yam and employs approximately 18 persons, including five females.

Excited about being named Champion Farmer for 2019 Black she told the Observer that: “It's a great feeling. It's a really, really great feeling. I grew up with my grandfather farming. He was doing it on a small scale and when we had extra, he would of course sell, but it was mainly for household purposes so farming is something that I have always been close to.”

Black added: “I wasn't too proud to get my hands dirty as much as I sing and persons who knew me as a singer were shocked to see me venture into farming, but, I've always been interested in farming or agriculture.

“I wanted to become a veterinary surgeon and like a lot of people, my parents couldn't afford it and so I started singing, but nine years ago I decided that I still wanted to do something in farming because I have so much love for it. I'm really passionate about it, so I started and the rest is history.”

She is hoping that her work will be a motivation for other women who are considering getting into farming and despite her success so far Black is aiming higher.

“For Golden Dutchie Farm, the sky is the limit. We are going to be doing a lot of packaging and we are planning to put different products together.

“Right now we have a new product that I can't mention as yet that we are putting together to introduce to the market and we are hoping to do some processing later on,” said Black.


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