Mafoota farmer, Grace Smith, has dedicated her life to agriculture.
For almost four decades, she has been cultivating crops for the local market on her seven and a half-acre farm located in the quiet community in southern St. James.
She started out with cabbage, lettuce, callaloo, zucchini, sweet potato, yam and yellow squash, and later added avocado, pineapple, Irish potato, ackee and lychee.
Over the years, Mrs. Smith has improved her farm adding a greenhouse to protect the more vulnerable crops from climatic conditions, a solar-powered irrigation system, and a refrigerated truck for short-term storage of reaped produce.
She has become a model farmer in her community and is known for the high quality of her produce, particularly callaloo.
She is a leading member of the Mafoota Farmers’ Cooperative, which was formed over 15 years ago. The members receive continuous training from the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
“The Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, through RADA, continues to give us an indication of the new trends and developments in agriculture. We then cultivate with that in mind,” Mrs. Smith tells JIS News.
At age 60, she is as passionate and dedicated to farming today, as when she ventured into the male-dominated field at age 23.
Mrs. Smith tells JIS News that she has no regrets and if she had to live her life over, she would still choose farming.
“Farming has been for me, very good. I have made a life out of it. I have schooled my kids and everything,” she says, noting that she enjoys a “better than average” standard of living.
She tells JIS News that her initial foray into farming in 1979 was just to feed her family.
“I was just doing subsistence farming. However, I soon realised that there was much more to farming than just cultivating for the needs of my family and I decided that I would roll up my sleeves, put my shoulders to the wheel and stay with farming for the very long haul,” she points out.
Mrs. Smith is encouraging more young people to pursue farming as a career, noting that they can make a good living.
“We should have more young people in farming because farming is our base in this country and we need the agriculture sector to continue to grow and prosper,” she points out.
She notes further that as a farmer, “you are independent as you are working for yourself. You have no boss and you can make a decent living out of farming…once you dedicate yourself to it and decide to work.”
The wife and mother of five tells JIS News that she is proud of what she has achieved through farming and her contribution to the development of the agricultural sector.
She notes that there are challenges but notes the rewards outweigh the adversities.
“I am very satisfied as a female farmer. I have been in farming from I was 23 years old and now I am 60 years old, so I have been there for a long time and I have achieved a lot. It took dedication and hard work to get to this stage. It’s not easy, but you can make it out of farming,” she says.
She is looking forward to the continued development of the industry and is making appeal for farmers to make greater use of technology.