Farming, a profession not popularly known to attract youth in Jamaica, has proven to be a fulfilling passion for friends, Jevaughn Whyte and Terrique Goldson, who with their business partner, agriculturalist Patrick White, successfully operate OMG Farms.
“OMG Farms is the number-one cultivator of pineapples in Jamaica, and we will be expanding into other produce. We started essentially because we wanted to have greater control in terms of what we put into our bodies. My co-founder and myself initially joked at the idea of having our own farm years ago,” Co-founder and Managing Director of OMG Farms, Whyte tells JIS News.
However, it was not until attending rice planting festivals in Japan sometime later that co-founder Mr. Goldson was convinced that the farm had to become a reality.
“I went to a rice planting festival in Kyoto and then I went to another rice planting festival in Tokyo. They have this elaborate festival around rice planting. Just from the fanfare over there versus how we do farming, I was like ‘we really should go into farming – we really should own a farm’,” says Goldson, who is Director of Logistics at OMG Farms.
Taking the experience from two earlier business ventures (Overdrive Motor Group and One Media Group), Mr. Whyte and Mr. Goldson, age 27 and 35 respectively, did their research and added OMG Farms as the third business to the OMG family.
Having neither previous knowledge nor any experience in the field, both young men were introduced to agriculturalist, Patrick White, who shared their vision for the business and partnered with them for the success of OMG Farms.
White, Agricultural Service Manager for OMG Farms, has spent his entire life in the field of agriculture. The trained agriculturalist worked with the Ministry of Agriculture for about four years and with the Sugar Industry Research Institute for over 20 years.
He explains that his expertise in the area of agriculture combined with the marketing and distribution network that both Mr. Whyte and Goldson already had, helped to grow OMG Farms.
The farm, which is located on 25 acres of agricultural lands in Fontabelle, Trelawny, started out with pineapples as the primary crop. Little did the business partners anticipate that having to deal with a novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic just as their first crop was ready for reaping, would be to their benefit.
“When the three of us met about it, we decided we were going to turn it into an opportunity. We saw that a lot of clients were looking for convenience and they were afraid to go out to the normal markets. In a strange way, it helped us. So, we waived a lot of the delivery fees to deliver the produce to their doorsteps free of charge. That has allowed the business to grow exponentially. As a matter of fact, based on our projections before COVID, we have surpassed that, and the COVID restrictions have helped us to do so,” Whyte shared.
He notes that the farm went from distributing roughly 200 pounds of pineapples a week to customers to now 2,500 pounds a week and quickly approaching 3,000 pounds weekly. Their business-to-consumer clients are spread across the parishes of Trelawny, St. James, St. Ann, Kingston and St. Andrew and St. Catherine.
During the period, the team facilitated the request of their clients for peeled pineapples for greater convenience and acted upon their request for other produce.
The farm now produces short-term crops such as lettuce, cucumber and pak choi, along with sweet potato, cantaloupe and watermelon, for which distribution has begun. In the mid-term, the farm will produce onions, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes and corn, with plans to also produce Scotch bonnet pepper, ginger, coconut and yam later on.
“One of the things with agriculture is marketing. If your marketing structure is not set up, you are going to have problems. Now that we have our marketing network and distribution lined up, we can now go into all of these groups and expand,” shares White.
“We are in the process of entering contracts with some business-to-business clients, which would see us spreading into other parishes like Westmoreland and Hanover. We have already secured another 25-acre property in Trelawny, because we see that we are going to have to expand. With some of the business-to-business clients that are coming on, we are going to be expanding into livestock as well,” Whyte related.
Their client base has grown from 50 to almost 1,500 business-to-consumer clients at present. The co-founders explain that most of their clients, including several business clients, were secured through extensive social media marketing and referrals.
OMG Farms currently employs seven persons, with plans to increase its staff complement as their client base and production expand. The management also has plans to explore secondary products from their farm produce, with hopes to export.
Mr. White says that he has had a positive experience partnering with both young men and advises older, more experienced Jamaicans to do the same.
“It is very important that we give back and also it is very important that we mentor younger folks to nurture and develop young talent. The thing with Terrique and Jevaughn is that they may be young but you can’t age ideas, and they have very good ideas. I know a lot of trained agriculturalists who would be enthused to help younger farmers. I guess this is one way the Government can look at how to forge such a programme to get more experienced, trained, agriculturalists to work with younger people to develop our whole agricultural system in Jamaica,” he tells JIS News.