When you set out to farm and cultivate land, the most remarkable thing happens. You grow and nurture yourself and the land simply produces your joy.” This is how Saint Lucian Kei Mayers feels about his venture into the agriculture fields of life. The satisfying “feet in the soil singing experience”, and working with plants, means everything to him.
Kei has chosen a sustainable and health conscious path with a large focus on organic farming. His farm is filled with an abundant supply of kale, broccoli, Swiss chard, gourmet sweet corn, cherry and other types of tomatoes, beets and an assortment of herbs. Nursery checks along with soil testing to determine the best fertigation and irrigation plans are what start off his typical day.
Agriculture has been in focus as of late with initiatives by the Taiwan Technical Mission, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) intended to strengthen the capacity of farmers, and improve their income. Just last month CARDI staged a one-day workshop which examined market trends linked to climate change in an effort to help farmers implement crop scheduling methods, which would help them meet market demands. The initiative lured farmers of all ages to the Orchid Room in Union, where the enthusiasm of participants, particularly young farmers, was palpable.
The involvement of youth in the field of agriculture proliferating has been increasing over the years. In fact, it has grown leaps and bounds from the days of banana farming. A group of “Agripreneurs”, as they are known, are slowly emerging as a new face of agriculture. This movement is being led by a multiplying number of young, college educated farmers fighting the stigma that agriculture is attached to poverty. Their passion has driven them to leave conventional desk jobs, to take responsibility for their country’s food security. Over the years there has been talk about making agriculture “sexy” again; and they may well be the generation to do it.
Kei’s company, “Natureskei” produces organic vegetables and herbs and is now looking to expand into food crops in the next growing season. He has recently undertaken a project concerning agriculture technology, with the aim of building a climate smart greenhouse with active cooling, and utilizing a farm management system.
It goes without saying climate change is real and the impacts are being felt by us all. It is sometimes hard for farmers like Kei to distinguish between the island’s “wet” and “dry” seasons, as according to the young farmer, it is not unusual to go an entire month with less than average rainfall in what should typically be the wet season.
“Over all we must deal with great uncertainties with rains and droughts,” he says, adding that a limited water source makes it hard to get crops to specification. For him it has been a tough battle in an industry that only rewards the most patient. According to Kei, “even when you believe that you are sufficiently prepared, crop loss occurs.”
Kei is not giving up, and has a carefully mapped out plan to reinvigorate, and take his farm to the next level.
With the local demand of food ever increasing as a result of a steadily-growing population, farmers and their service is vital. Food security – what we eat, the choices we make and our desire to know what is in our food, goes hand in hand with empowering local famers and food suppliers. The goal is to revolutionize the agriculture industry and make it more attractive to all types, especially the youth.