Denisha Williams rises at the crack of dawn every day not to don a suit and heels for a regular nine to five office job, but to put on her boots, jeans and a T-shirt to head to the lush agricultural field for a full day’s work. Hers is a labour of love which started from the age of 14 years old, while a student of the Graydon Sealy and Springer Memorial Schools.
Now, at 22 years old, and a student at the University of the West Indies pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance and Accounting, she is the proud co-owner of Ann and De’s Forever Green Vegetable Farm.
The half-acre farm, located at Salters, St. George, Barbados currently has close to 2,000 heads of lettuce under cultivation, and other crops, including cucumber and sweet potatoes.
Denisha and her mother, Ann-Marie Williams, are clients of the Ministry of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce’s Trust Loan Fund.
The plot is being leased on a yearly basis and they recently received the funds from the Trust Loan Fund to build a shed for protection while in the field.
Denisha, a first year student of Accounts and Finance at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, took a break from tilling the land and related the day in a life of a farmer and how the farm got its name during a recent interview with the Barbados Government Information Service.
She added: “The name came about because my mom’s name is Ann-Marie and all of my siblings’ name begin with De and after this, a gentleman passed by the farm one day and exclaimed: “This farm very green. It isn’t supposed to be so green, and I asked what do you mean?”
“Farming is a hard thing. It takes up a lot of time and money, and if you have time on your hands during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can go into your backyard if you have land, and work up a few beds.”
So when we were deciding to name it my mother decided to add forever green because it always green. People don’t believe me when I say that some days that you have to be in the field sometimes at 5:00 or 6:00 a.m. and I don’t leave until I am ready to go to school, or I would leave at 6:00 p.m. Sometimes, I take a break at 12:00; go home and come back around 3:00 p.m.,” she stated.
When asked why she got into farming, Denisha added: “It wasn’t really a decision that I made, but I saw it as an opportunity to make money and I really enjoy it, and that is why I have stuck with farming.
Additionally, farming fits into my schedule with attending classes at university because it is better to work for myself than for someone.”
Denisha has no plans to leave farming after she acquires her degree, but it will instead, help her “look after the books”.
“At present, I push my mother into going into other markets and soon from now I will be doing the accounting for the business. So far, our main clients are Chefette, Carlton and A1 Supermarkets, the now closed Waterfront Café, Burger King, and the Club Marina, along with a few vendors who we sell to right now,” she said.
In the next five years, Denisha is hoping to expand the farming operations to go into more markets, including the hotel and cruise sectors.
To those aspiring farmers, Denisha offered this advice: “Farming is a hard thing. It takes up a lot of time and money, and if you have time on your hands during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can go into your backyard if you have land, and work up a few beds. You can also contact the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation and see if you can get the land ploughed and look for a crop that goes back with your soil to plant.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland, who visited the farm along with Business Development Manager of the Trust Loan Fund, Kirk Dottin, said one of the mandates of his Ministry is to visit those small businesses that benefited from the fund to see how they fared during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said since the fund started in 2018, seed capital had been provided to small businesses ranging from agriculture and creative industries to manufacturing and sports.
Sutherland showered praise on Denisha and her family for their hard work despite the pandemic.
“We are happy to see that they kept the faith in agriculture and indeed this is the fruits of a Government who decided to invest in the ordinary man to ensure that we can build the micro and small enterprises. I am happy that this is one of our visits for the day and that Ann and De’s Forever Green Vegetable Farm is doing well, as you can see from how luscious this farm is,” he stated.
Dottin said so far the Fund had exceeded expectations. “To date, we have given $13.5 million to over 2,958 clients, and so far the Loan Fund has been going well.”