Rural Express: Farming pays all the bills
Gareth Davis Sr, Gleaner Writer
Mill Bank, Portland:Heavily dependent on his livelihood of farming, which has allowed him to care for his ageing father and a sick sister, Lambert Folkes is harbouring thoughts of planting an additional crop to adequately pay his monthly expenses.
Folkes, who occupies approximately three acres of farm land at Mill Bank in the upper Rio Grande Valley in Portland, is now clearing away vegetation - to commence tilling of the soil, so as to plant dasheens, which will be a new addition to his farm.
"This new crop should bring in additional and well-needed cash," commented Folkes.
He added, "For years now, I have been toying with the idea of planting dasheens, and I believe it is now the right time, especially given the fact that the rains have returned. I have always stuck to the traditional crops including banana, pepper, plantain, ginger, and turmeric, but now it's high time I put in some heads of dasheen. The crop (dasheen) is in high demand at this time and it is also being used to make chips and pudding."
According to the 64-year-old farmer, the bills are now mounting, and with his 94-year-old father, who is basically helpless, along with a sister suffering as a result of a stroke, more money is needed to cover the cost of medication for the two family members.
Folkes noted that in addition, his pride and joy, his 16-year-old daughter is attending Port Antonio High School, and with the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) and the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) just around the corner, additional cash is needed to meet the demand.
The upbeat farmer, who started farming at age 15, remains optimistic that farming is still a viable occupation, as it provides a wide cross section of the population with a variety of fresh produce, which are grown locally and is affordable.
Continuing, Folkes added, "The cost of fertilisers and other pesticides is extremely high and this puts a strain on us as small farmers. The spending power of the consumer is also another issue, as they, too, are without money to buy the food that they want. I have lowered the cost of my produce, but from time to time, I find it difficult to sell my crops on a timely basis. I come into Port Antonio every Friday and walk around selling scotch bonnet pepper, turmeric, ginger, and onions, as they are spoiling on my farm. But despite the challenges, I will continue to farm until I die."