When Nicholas Anderson decided to venture into farming seven years ago, this was not his first career choice, but he has no regrets after taking this step into somewhat unfamiliar territory. Through farming, which is his only source of income, Anderson has been able to sustain himself and his family as well as create employment for 18 members of his and surrounding communities. Even though he grew up in rural Jamaica with his grandparents who reared goats, the concept of farming was still foreign to him, and it, therefore, took sheer persistence in the field until he found his footing.
“It worked itself out… it chose me,” Andersen tells JIS News.
When his first attempt at farming – rearing pigs – failed, Anderson says he was not deterred. He instead turned his next effort – a small plot of ginger – into a now thriving business.
It was this same tenacity that earned the 31-year-old, who hails from Reckfort in Clarendon, the coveted title of Young Farmer of the Year, during the recent staging of the Denbigh Agricultural, Industrial and Food Show. He was also crowned Champion Ginger Farmer.
“It’s a very good feeling to know that the (recognition has been given to someone from the area I am from, which is a farming area. You never have anyone in my area who has risen to the level where I am at, at my age. So, it’s a great feeling for me. It’s a great accomplishment,” he says.
Although he now cultivates other crops, including Scotch bonnet pepper, cabbage, yam and dasheen, Mr. Anderson notes that “the real start was with ginger,” when in 2011 he heard about the Agriculture Ministry’s Export Division ginger supply programme.
This involved farmers growing and selling their ginger crops to the Export Division to supply the Japanese market.
“I started out with 250lb (of ginger) and after reaping that 250lb, I got 1,800lb and I plant the 1,800lb again and sell and make an increase again, and I (then) planted an acre,” he shares.
He continued on this trend of reinvesting in the business until he now harvests thousands of pounds of ginger during reaping season. Just two weeks ago, Mr. Anderson reaped more than 150,000lb of ginger.
The ambitious young man, who works along with his uncle, now operates his farm on 16 acres of land, a parcel of which is leased and some owned by his grandfather. He is currently seeking another 20 acres of land to expand his cultivation of Scotch bonnet peppers.
The Stacyville All-Age and Kellits High alumnus, notes that while farming has “its ups and downs”, with challenges, including praedial larceny and inclement weather, if given the option, he would again choose this source of income.
He notes that while last year was a good season in terms of the weather, it has been “very rough” this year due to the prevailing drought, which has had an impact on his yields.
“That’s one of the things that really fight me the most, but, you know, I hold on. Some of the years I don’t make any money…we just get back what we plant,” he shares.
Anderson says that he is grateful for the assistance he has received throughout the years, which has helped him to improve on his farming techniques, and, in turn, boost his yields. Of note, he says, is the technical support he receives from the Government through the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
He says that while he was not able to benefit from all the training opportunities the agency offers, due to his busy schedule, he is appreciative of the knowledge he has garnered from the sessions he attends. He notes, as well, that he works closely with the RADA extension officer that has been assigned to him.
Anderson has also been the beneficiary of fertiliser from the Government, through RADA. He was given a 50-lb bag of the product following Denbigh this year. He also received some fertiliser in the previous two years after the staging of the show.
The young farmer, who currently sells his produce to a processor in St. Ann, as well as higglers and hotel and supermarket suppliers, says he also harbours hopes of expanding his business and leaving a legacy for his six-year-old son.
He adds that he would love to get directly into the supermarket and hotel markets “which carry a much better price…; it would make a whole lot of difference”.