Sun | Mar 18, 2018

Innovative Three Hills farmers reaping success

Published:Tuesday | February 28, 2017 | 12:09 AMSashakay Fairclough
Ralph Clarke grows red and white onions, broccoli and cabbage.
Gloria East, affectionately called Ms G, who worked as a primary school teacher, is now one of the Three Hills farmers. Here she is reaping carrots.
Paulette Clarke turns the fruits she grows, into wines.

Establishing the Three Hills Farmers' Association was the aspiration of Kenrick Johnson. He successfully did so in September 2007 after noting the needs of the local farmers. The current president, he is pleased with the fact that there are now 52 members.

"I started it because many of them on the Industry Pen Land needed legal security of tenure, plus I realised how necessary it was to promote sustainable farming practices in our farming community."

One beloved member of this farming community is Gloria East, affectionately called Ms G, who worked as a primary schoolteacher for many years before being catapulted into farming at Liberty Estate full time.

"While working as a teacher, someone gave me some cabbage suckers to plant. When I reaped them I realised that the money I made was much more than what I received by teaching. I then decided to go into farming and eventually left the teaching profession for good."

Her four acres of land is occupied by food crops such as cabbage, yam, tomatoes, carrots, and banana, which she sells at the farmers' market in White River, an area that borders St Ann and St Mary. However, if she reaps a large number of crops, she sells them to a man who supplies hospitals and schools in Kingston. A widow who struggles with knee complications, Ms G proudly does most of the farm work by herself.

"On weekends, two persons come and help to plough the land, but I manage very well on my own. I love farming in Three Hills because the soil is very good here."

In fact, her only complaints are of electricity problems and water shortages in the area, which often impedes her work. Nevertheless, she plans to expand when things become more financially stable for her.

"I would plant more tomatoes, cucumbers, and cabbages if I could afford it because if you plant a lot and then sell them cheaply, you will make a good profit."

She asserts that the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) has been beneficial to the farmers based on the assistance they provide. Last year, she received Irish potatoes and noted that RADA often hands out fertiliser and seeds for planting to the local farmers.


Prepared to work assiduously


Her advice to persons interested in farming is to be prepared to work assiduously.

"You have to love it and you have to work hard. You have to get up early in the mornings, and most importantly, you have to manage your money properly."

Ralph Clarke, who also farms on Liberty Estate along with his son Mark, is inclined to agree with her. As a grower of red and white onions, broccoli, cabbage, and other crops he believes that interested persons should observe the professionals before they embark on a career in this field.

"Young people especially, who are interested should do some farming when they are not at school and get advice from farmers. Further, they need to go to RADA and register."

Can't turn water into wine; does so with fruits

Paulette Clarke, an ingenious Three Hills farmer with 17 years under her belt, decided to take a different approach. While she plants the usual tomatoes, onion, sorrel, and potatoes, she is an unofficial wine connoisseur who turns the fruits she plants into unique and delicious wines. This excites wine drinkers who sample her products during the annual Agricultural Exhibition at Gray's Inn Sports Complex in Annotto Bay, St Mary.

The fruits, which ferment their own alcohol, have been converted to locust wine, mango wine, sorrel wine, jackfruit wine, guinep wine, June plum wine, apple wine, tomato wine, banana wine, gungo peas wine, and pineapple wine.

Asked how she came up with the idea to make wine, Paulette admitted that it stemmed from her natural curiosity.

"One day, about seven years ago, I just decided to turn mango into wine. I still have the bottle of wine I made back then. After that, I decided to make wine out of the other fruits."


Not on the market


Unfortunately for those with sophisticated palates, her wines are not yet available on the market.

"I have not registered with Bureau of Standards as yet, so they are not available. I want to put them on the market, hopefully, at some point this year, but I do not have the funds, so that's also what is slowing down the process."

As we await the registration of Paulette's Wine, it is safe to say that although certain necessities are not widely accessible to rural farmers, the small district of Three Hills has some of the most innovative and hardworking farmers in the country.