DENBIGH, Clarendon — Seventy-seven-year-old Sydney Francis has been around the block, literally, having ridden his bicycle through every nook and cranny of the 52-acre Denbigh Showground property when he was a boy. He has attended the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show for 65 of the show's 68 years.
"A good friend of mine and his father was in charge here then. He used to live on the compound so in the evenings we used to ride bicycles up and down this place. At one time I knew every corner of Denbigh," he said.
Francis was among the first students of the popular Glenmuir High School in Clarendon, which is just a few minutes' walk from the venue that used to host the three-day show.
He now lives and operates a seafood business in St Thomas so these days he's not so sure what exists on the property. But he has seen the changes made to the show over the years, some better than others in his view.
"Denbigh is not what it used to be, it's a little bit too commercial now with all the selling. Denbigh used to be about the farmer with the biggest yam, the cabbage that used to weigh the most pounds, the best breed of cattle and so on. It's more commercial than agriculture, it needs to be restructured," he said.
"When I say commercial, I mean you selling cars, and a number of other things that have nothing to do with agriculture directly. They need to bring back the root of agriculture which is the livestock and the crops and the scientifics of the activity. There should be a department where a young farmer can go in and sit down with his idea and he is told the direction he must go and all that because is only once a year we have Denbigh," he opined.
As he stopped to chat with the Jamaica Observer as he entered the stables on Monday, he spoke of the importance of agriculture.
"You must know where to put your money. Michael Manley told Jamaica to eat what they grow and grow what they eat but they never take it up in hand then, there was a vacuum for around 30 years or more," he said. "But this has been the push only recently, like a couple years ago. If we as a nation put politics aside and look in the direction of agriculture you know how far we would reach today."