Fri | Dec 14, 2018

Jade Lee - Mother, farmer, philanthropist

Published:Monday | August 8, 2016 | 12:00 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston

Many in the entertainment circle would know the name Jade Lee. For years she has been responsible for charting the careers of artistes, including Denyque, as well as being active in other areas of the industry.

What many don't know is that this sprightly young woman is a resourceful farmer - so much so that she walked away with the Champion Female Farmer title at the recently concluded 64th Denbigh Agricultural Show in Clarendon.

Supported by family and friends, Lee made the proud walk to collect her trophy - a vindication of all the hard work and sacrifices she put in.

Flair caught up with Lee after she received her award, and brimming with pride she told us, "I feel my hard work has been recognised, and I feel inspired to continue my journey in farming - encouraging other farmers and people who aspire to be farmers to be successful at this craft."

The operator of Little Orchard Farm, she revealed what it took to get to this place in her life - first and foremost a vision and staying focused.

"Handwork, commitment and careful budgeting and research were very important components," she said.

With most of her life spent in entertainment, Lee said what powered her foray into the farming was her father's passing in 2008. Although she had grown up on the farm, she never had any interest in taking the path her father did.

But seeing the property abandoned for over six years, she said she realised it was her legacy to rebuild, restructure and rejuvenate her childhood home, making it into a sustainable business and an inspiration for others.

"It sounds kind of crazy, but I had a really impactful out-of-body experience where my dad spoke to me. I feel like he is always there guiding me. We were close and I had a great deal of respect for his wisdom," Lee shared.

Although Lee was determined to take up this new challenge, she was not willing to let go of the world she loved - the entertainment industry. So for her it meant proper time management, coupled with a great skill of multitasking.

"I have also been blessed with a great team of employees in all my businesses. I believe very strongly in training and teaching my staff how to apply themselves and troubleshoot - this has worked to my advantage," said the woman who now runs a 35-acre property with 20 being in production.

Among the crops she farms are pineapple, ginger, coconuts, cassava, banana, plantain, spinach, over 30 different fruit crops, as well as livestock.

Lee will be the first to admit that farming is very challenging, especially with balancing her time with her entertaining duties and giving quality time to her children, although most of them are now grown.

And does gender matter? For her it doesn't matter if you are male or female, it's the same set of challenges.

"I have long got over the male/female thing in business, as I have been running my own businesses for almost three decades. I have learnt to artfully navigate my way through the challenges that we face in business, no matter our gender. This continues even now as there are new challenges to face every day," she said.

Reflecting on the path she took with her businesses, Lee said it was

a necessity for her to support her family, "just as much as family time is important to instil good values and principles in my children, and, once we understand this, the two must work in harmony. I say jokingly to my friends that I now have five children, the farm being my youngest. They are all different and I treat them as such," shared Lee with a smile.

Three of her children are now 'past the worst' as her eldest, Topaz, has found a successful career in banking. Lee even hints that her daughter will one day be the financial controller for the empire she's trying to build.

"My daughter Kimberly just completed a teaching assignment in Cambodia. She has a strong interest in working with disabled children, and my Alexander is going into his third year of architecture at the University of Technology, and he recently won the award for most outstanding model maker in his year," informed Lee, adding that he and her has the closest business connection, and he enjoys 'talking shop' with her, always coming up with great ideas to improve the businesses.

The baby of the family is Taylor J, who will begin third grade at the Stella Maris Preparatory School this September and just made the principal's honour roll for academic year ending 2016.

"She's a little fireball and, if asked, will tell you that the farm belongs to her," said Lee with a soft smile.

Lee said her biggest supporter and mentor is her mother, Dorothy, who has been totally devoted to her along her journey.

Lee believes that, "to whom much is given, much is required", and that is why she has been donating farm produce to local children's homes and other institutions which caters to the less fortunate.

"I currently do this through my Facebook page and the need is overwhelming. I am encouraging other farmers to do the same by giving back in this way."