(Jamaica Gleaner) Twenty-nine-year-old Citerina Atkins didn’t dream that she would turn out to be a farmer.
The deCarteret Faculty alumna, who hails from New Corridor in Manchester, had her sights set on a profession in finance.
After graduating from The College of the West Indies, Mona, with a level in banking and finance, she did a one-year stint working at an insurance coverage company.
Not snug with the nine-to-five workplace surroundings, she started to search for a method out.
One Sunday, her cousin, Roike Campbell, who had just lately stop his job in info know-how to give attention to farming, confirmed her the social media pages of Abbey Gardens Farm, managed by Younger Champion Farmer and Nutramix Youth in Agriculture Ambassador Diandra Rowe, and he or she was intrigued.
On that farm, greens are grown utilizing hydroponics, bag tradition, ebb and circulate, in addition to the nutrient movie approach.
“After seeing farming in that mild, it motivated me and impressed me to enter the sector for myself,” Atkins instructed The Gleaner.
She quickly noticed the potential of agriculture to be a beautiful, economically viable profession choice, and in July 2018, she made the transition to do full-time farming of candy potatoes along with her cousin.
Now the co-founder of Gerty’s Agro-Produce – named in honour of their late grandmother who was a farmer – and simply over two years since she made that daring transfer, Atkins was awarded the Prime Minister’s Nationwide Youth Award for Excellence in Agriculture and Agro-Processing.
“I’ve been doing this for my fulfilment and to not be recognised. I’m actually honoured,” she instructed The Gleaner.
Campbell, who launched Atkins to farming, stated that his cousin is properly deserving of the accolade.
“To see her as a younger feminine in farming says rather a lot,” he stated. “We’ve been progressing properly. We work as a crew to get every little thing completed.”
The younger farmer had no formal coaching in agriculture however since she started, Atkins has been engaged within the 4-H Membership’s Rural Youth Financial Empowerment Programme (RYEEP) and is now enrolled within the YWOP/US Embassy’s R.E.A.P Agri-Tech Entrepreneurship Programme.
“It’s a programme that trains us to recognise farming as a enterprise. We do monetary planning [and] advertising and marketing. We additionally do farm administration and stuff alongside that line so we are able to apply that to the farming practices,” she stated.
Atkins discovered it pretty straightforward to discover a marketplace for the candy potatoes after her first harvest with help from the Rural Agricultural Improvement Authority (RADA).
“We’ll come if we have to spray or if we have to scout the sector for pests. We spray, apply fertiliser and coordinate reaping actions,” she stated of how the farm is maintained, noting that she additionally is determined by the morning and night dew for soil moisture.
“Being a farmer usually, I’m affected by the local weather. We don’t have water within the drought season and when it rains, we lose our crops. As a feminine farmer, I feel it’s higher as a result of I’m extra recognised and individuals gravitate to and provides me recommendation as a result of they’re stunned to see a feminine farming,” she defined.
Atkins misplaced candy peppers and cabbage crops within the October rains, however plans to plant a brand new crop, together with yam, in brief order.
Group members have prolonged their charity to the 2 younger farmers by permitting them to farm on idle lands they’d leased from the Authorities.
They have been just lately allotted one and a half acres of land and have already ready it and sowed candy potato slips.
“We’ve entry to about 20 acres of land, however we don’t have crops on all of it. We are attempting to arrange a system the place now we have good staggered manufacturing, so now we have one thing coming in each month,” she revealed.
Atkins stated that agriculture is an efficient funding as globally, meals is at all times in demand, and “Jamaican produce is premium produce”.
“If we are able to improve the export of those produce and truly produce extra import-substituted items, it’s going to assist to have an effect on the commerce deficit and to principally minimise the imports,” she reasoned.
The younger farmer harbours goals of working on a number of ranges of the worth chain.
“I wish to go into agro-processing and exporting for myself. I’m doing my analysis, I’m contacting JAMPRO, and I’m working in the direction of that,” she stated.
She relishes the liberty that she is afforded as a farmer and entrepreneur. Since her entry into the sector, she has been targeted on utilizing agriculture as a software of group improvement. The farming duo donates produce to the aged and early-childhood establishments in addition to employs group members and educate them on the significance of treating agriculture as a enterprise.
Her phrase of recommendation to different younger individuals pondering of going into agriculture: “Seek the advice of with RADA, seek the advice of together with your agronomist and get knowledgeable recommendation earlier than you enterprise into the sector. Do your analysis and don’t let worry maintain you again from doing one thing you wish to do.”