St Ann farmers nurtured by Sandals Foundation
Farmer Michael Robinson (left) collects bottles of fertiliser from Newport Fersan representative Nigel Panton. (Photo: Akera Davis)

HERMITAGE, St Ann — It has not been easy for Sanjae Smith to strike the balance between being a police officer and tending to his crop. But since the 29-year-old became a farmer in 2019 he has had some measure of success.

He grows lettuce, sweet potato, and pumpkin.

"Sometimes I lose, but I just continue because I am determined," said Smith. "I love farming so I push myself to balance both jobs. I'm on my farm every day. The beauty about farming as well is planting something and watching it grow and then to harvest it."

He lives in Hermitage, a rural farming district nestled in the hills of St Ann. He was one of the farmers who attended a ceremony held in his community on Wednesday morning to mark the end of a project spearheaded by Sandals Foundation. Under the three-month-long project a group of 17 farmers learnt about the technical aspects of crop harvesting.

Agricultural entities, such as Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA), Newport Fersan, and H&L Agro, were also a part of the initiative. Farmers benefited from marketing tips, land preparation techniques as well as guidance on crop selection based on soil tests.

"I'm grateful for the additional education I got from this project. It was a very good move because it has helped us out in training and give us a great start," Smith told the Jamaica Observer.

During Wednesday's ceremony, each farmer received a US$200 H&L Agro gift card, along with four bottles of organic fertiliser.

Patrick Finegan, who has been a farmer for 15 years, already knows how he will be using the fertiliser.

"Currently I have some scotch bonnet peppers so this fertiliser that we just received will provide better results in the coming months. This is the best thing for Christmas right now," he told the Observer.

"Mi feel good about this that Sandals do for us because mi get to save some money on all the stuff that I would have to buy," added another farmer, 53-year-old Michael Robinson.

Georgia Scarlett, who represented Sandals Foundation during the event, urged the farmers to continue contributing to the agricultural sector.

"We were alerted to the needs of the farmers in this community by one of our team members, Peaches Irons, and we came in and see how best we could assist. The farmers communicated to us that they needed technical support and so we brought in RADA, Fersan, and H&L just to teach the farmers a bit more about cultivating better, and I can say it was a successful joinery," said Scarlett.

"For the next five years these farmers will know what can be planted on their land based on the soil testing done by Fersan. That will go a far way to benefit the farmers themselves and also contribute a lot to the community," she added.

Sanjae Smith (left) listens attentively as an H&L Agro representative talks about items in a bag the company presented to farmers. (Photo: Akera Davis)
BY AKERA DAVIS Observer writer

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