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Digging for gold...Adventists seek to increase profits for local farmers

Published:Saturday | April 9, 2016 | 4:00 AMOrantes Moore
PHOTO BY ORANTES MOORE From left: David Obermiller, Lynn Hoag, and Darren Greenfield of the US-based Adventist Agricultural Association, alongside President of the North East Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Arlington Woodburn at a farming conference in St Mary last week.

ROBIN'S BAY, St Mary:

radical health initiative could help generate employment and at least $1 million per year for farmers throughout St Mary and Portland, according to President of the North East Jamaica Conference of Seventh-day Adventists Arlington Woodburn.

In an effort to promote his organisation's 'Save Our Schools Through Industries and Commitments' (SOSTIC) project, Woodburn and his team, last weekhosted an agricultural summit in Robin's Bay, St Mary.

The three-day conference, which featured a series of guest speakers from the US-based Adventist Agricultural Association (AAA), is part of a wider scheme that aims to increase profits for local farmers by supporting them with training, networking, and grant-financing opportunities.

Woodburn told Family and Religion: "This programme is about beginning the process of seeking to find a cadre of people who can be trained as professional farmers. Most of the folks we're targeting, young and old, are already farmers.

"But we recognise they have not been farming professionally and, therefore, are not making money out of farming. So we have to look at long-standing problems and things that are not being done correctly.

"For example, there are storage problems, and few people could supply a customer who wants 4,000lbs of pumpkin. Single-handedly, we know we cannot farm enough to supply the market, and yet we don't know how to form cooperatives for production.

"Our intent and aim is that every individual who is trained must not earn less than $1 million per year out of farming. When this programme ends, everyone must go back knowing they are digging for gold. They should be earning more than they were before."

The pastor noted that just recently, a member of his congregation praised the SOSTIC programme for helping to balance her household budget. He said: "At one of our meetings around two weeks ago, there was a testimony from a teacher who said that after starting a greenhouse, she is now able to bank her salary and live off her greenhouse."

Woodburn insisted that the initiative, which ultimately promotes healthy lifestyle choices, is perfect for entrepreneurial farmers who want support to expand and develop their businesses.

He explained: "Those who come on board must be employers and business owners with some business acumen. We're also hoping to develop a symbiotic relationship with the AAA, who are teaming up to support us.

"We're combining our efforts so that we can study the market, deal with market forces, and produce more because our main concern is that people have not learned to appreciate the benefits of farming.

"We are children of slaves and, as such, believe that farming is a slave man's work. We want to change that culture and mindset so people appreciate farming as a lucrative and dignified business because we know that silver and gold are in the soil, and money grows on trees."

familyandreligion@gleanerjm.comz