12-year-old hooked on farming
EVEN THOUGH he spent most of the day romping with a friend and generally enjoying the day, checking out booths at the Hague Agricultural and Livestock Show at the Hague Show Grounds in Trelawny on Ash Wednesday, Matthew Thomas made it clear he was a man on a mission.
"Came to check out the competition," he confided in The Gleaner, referring to the impressive showing of small ruminants (goat and sheep) on display. This was after explaining that, "My dad works at Nutramix and I came out in support of his company," as the other reason for being there.
last year's denbigh show
Following on two first places, two second prizes and two third-place showings by sheep from the family's farm at last year's Denbigh Agriculture, Industrial and Food Show, the 12-year-old is already planning for this year's event, even though it is still more than five months away.
"I do farming with my dad, and we're actually here in preparation for the show in August. Came to check out the competition and get the animals ready. We have sheep, goats, cows and pigs," Matthew explained.
Dad, Winston, who was within earshot, was beaming with pride as the third of three children for he and wife, Jacinth, have kept the family flag flying high, answering questions articulately without skipping a beat, and not even looking to the elder Thomas for any help.
"We feed the animals, clean the pens, we tend to them, vaccinate them, deworm them. We shave the sheep, we clip the hooves, and I actually understand all of that because I do all of it," he fired back with humility and an expertise obviously developed of many years of experience.
This was after I dared to suggest that most of what he knew as the theory. Not so, the Glenmuir High School first former insisted.
"It's something that growing up, I was introduced to a lot, so I kind of tend to lean more towards that kind of thing. If am not reading a book, I'm out with my dad tending to the animals and other stuff because it's just what I love. It's what I've grown up seeing, knowing, it's the environment in which I was introduced, and I tend to like that a lot."
A trained agriculturist, Winston Thomas pointed out that the family operates a livestock farm in Rhymesbury, Clarendon, and Matthew has been accompanying him since the age of six months, hence the youngster's appreciation for, and knowledge, of so many facets of animal husbandry.
"I could not leave out the house to go to the farm and he's not there, so he is always showing an interest, and he loves what he does when we go to the farm, so he's always involved whenever we get up there," he disclosed.
Even with full-time jobs, as sales managers at Nutramix, Winston and Jacinth have made a concerted effort to ensure their children are involved in farm operations in a bid to inculcate in them a love and appreciation for the value of agriculture to personal and national development.
To this end, it seems they have been very successful, since whenever they participate at Denbigh, Winston can represent his workplace, confident that the family business in good hands - Matthew's.
"We enter our own animals in the livestock competition and that's where he comes in now. He is basically the person who cares for the animals, prepares them and gets them ready for Denbigh."