Sat | May 27, 2017

Family to launch educational organic farming project

Published:Saturday | September 5, 2015 | 9:00 AM
Animal-loving brothers, Gavin and Rakesh Hill (right), with their father, Sylvester, at the family’s farm in Lewistore, St Mary.

LEWISTORE, St Mary:

A family, who has amassed one of the largest collections of enclosed animals in St Mary, is planning to utilise its love of pets to launch an educational project that teaches young people about the benefits of organic farming.

On Raymond Hill's five-acre farm in Lewistore, close to the Westmoreland Bridge, visitors can observe and learn about livestock, bee-keeping, and more than 70 varieties of rare birds, including cockatiels, quails, peacocks, and racing pigeons, owned by his son, Gavin.

Initially, Hill and his wife, Norma, introduced pets into the home to help engage their four sons, but neither parent anticipated that the hobby would develop into anything serious.

Hill told Family and Religion: "I grew up with a lot of pets and wanted the same for my children and noticed that looking after animals taught them how to love, care, and share.

"We started off with birds, moved on to other animals, and, eventually, the children took over. We used to win trophies for our cows and goats, and now, at the St Mary Agri-Expo this year, [my eldest son] Rakesh was voted champion farmer.

 

SENSE OF SATISFACTION

 

"When we started off, we were just thinking of keeping the children occupied, so to see where we are now gives me a sense of satisfaction and makes me feel good."

Mrs Hill is equally proud of her children but admits that it took a while to acknowledge that her beloved home had become a haven for exotic animals.

She said: "I had to grow into it, but now, I recommend that parents rear animals because it has helped to keep us united. It also reduces aggression, encourages teamwork, and helps children to develop a more caring attitude."

Looking ahead, the family hopes to transform their pet project into a fully self-sufficient, organic farm that will educate and employ local people. Rakesh explained: "The goal is to host tours for children attending basic school.

"I have horses and would like to construct a little horse-drawn chariot so they can ride around and see the different types of animals instead of just watching them on TV. We want to do something that opens our children's minds and looks towards building a better future for them."

According to Gavin, the family has also incorporated an ingenious energy-saving initiative into their plan to upgrade the facility. He said: "We recycle a lot of stuff because it's economical, and that's another thing we want to educate people about.

"For example, on this property, there is a stream we dammed so we can pump water up to the pig pens, and we're also working on a biodigester, which uses pig manure to produce gas for heating and electricity."

Rakesh added: "I didn't study agriculture, but I read a lot, especially things about animal health-care management, medication, and how they are administered. And because of that, the College of Agriculture Science and Education came to look for me and to ask about my alternative home remedies.

"Although there is a lack of resources in Jamaica, we still have a lot of things at our fingertips. We just lack the knowledge and application. Poor people just need to know and understand that organic farming can work, and pretty soon, you'll find that people will be able to fend for themselves."

rural@gleanerjm.com