RURAL EXPRESS - Shirley Butler farming for life
Ruddy Mathison, Gleaner Writer
SPANISH TOWN, St Catherine:
FIFTY-FIVE-year-old farmer Shirley Butler has been selling agricultural produce in the Spanish Town market for 35 years and is reputed to be one of the longest serving vendors in that facility.
Selling a variety of ground provisions including yam, sweet potato, pumpkin, Irish potato, onion, cabbage and many other items, Butler has been undertaking the approximately 36 miles journey from Broomwell, Clarendon to the Spanish Town market every Tuesday, making sure her large customer base is provided with quality agricultural produce.
"This is what I do, I am a farmer. I have been supplying and selling food in the market since I was 20 years old. I chiefly plant vegetables and yam, and I buy from other farmers," the soft-spoken Butler told Rural Xpress.
Good customer relationship
She pointed out that she turned to farming from an early age because most of her family members were farmers. According to Butler, she has established a very good relationship with her customers and sees it as her duty to be at the market every Tuesday to serve them. She revealed that her farm was badly affected by the recent drought and her inability to get fertiliser has made matters worse.
"Even though we have a lot of cabbage, there is a shortage of dasheen, sweet potato, and carrot, and this is because of the drought," the veteran farmer asserted.
Butler added that she often receives lines of credit from the farmers she does business with, enabling her to make up for the shortfall in most of the produce she sells.
The long-standing farmer who was finishing lunch when Rural Xpress visited her spot, recounted different ordeals she experienced in her 35 years doing business in the market. She suddenly stretched out her right hand to show a deep scar she sustained during a robbery at her house in 1998 when robbers made off with $80,000. Butler described numerous other incidents of petty and attempted robberies.
Displaying a serious expression on her face, she disclosed that her most recent encounter with robbers was three weeks ago when men entered her home in Clarendon, held her up and stole thousands of dollars and tried to rape her, a matter she said is under investigation by the police.
Meanwhile, David Burns, who has been collecting market fees for 14 years, described Butler as a very kind and sincere person who tries to satisfy her many customers.
Patricia Wreckley, a customer, said she has been buying agricultural produce from Butler for many years and has never been dissatisfied with her service.
"She even sells to other vendors in the market who I also buy from because I know it is coming from Shirley," Wreckley told Rural Xpress.