Manchester farmers show off produce at RADA Open Day
Cassandra Hinds is one of an increasing number of women across the island who are turning to farming for a living. She grows plummy tomatoes, purple cabbage, zucchini, lettuce and sweet peppers. But she needs a regular water supply for her farm, which is located in Spur Tree, Manchester.
"I need help, and I would be happy if I get some black drums to store water. I already have a drip-irrigation system installed on my farm," she told THE STAR.
Hinds, who also packages dried pimento berries, powdered ginger and powdered pimento, was among farmers who took their produce to be sold at the farmers' market at the RADA Manchester Open Day that was held at Brooks Park, Mandeville, on Friday, March 22.
Mario Hannan, who farms in northeast Manchester, grows cabbage, string beans, pumpkin, cucumber and sweet pepper, says he is bracing for the drought, but otherwise he does not encounter any serious challenges to his chosen field.
"Things are good right now. I don't have any complaints right now. I just wish we were told about this farmers' market sooner," he said.
South Manchester resident Jermaine Alexander said that in his community of Providence, water shortage is always a problem, but he grows sweet potatoes organically, and the compost mixture used to fertilise his crops is a big help.
"We always have water shortage in the south Manchester area, but we have to go on making a living, and I love the farming," said Alexander, who also packages fennel powder.
Speaking at the expo, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw, who also toured the farmers' market, expressed pleasure over the increased agricultural production in the parish.
But the minister noted that there is an unavailability of markets for local produce and promised to address the problem. He said that there would be a working group set up among the ministries of health, education and agriculture to achieve a sustainable school-feeding programme and increase the farmers' wealth.
"I am putting together a school-feeding programme where we will say to farmers, produce, and we will feed the children from what we grow, which is more nutritious for them," Shaw said, as he highlighted the love of Jamaicans' preference for imported rice and flour versus sweet potato, pumpkin and breadfruit.
The RADA Open Day, which was sponsored by Growers Choice, also featured exhibits by Fersan, Hi-Pro, the National Housing Trust, Social Development Commission, H&L Agro, National Solid Waste Management Authority, Pioneer Chocolate and Southern Regional Health Authority.