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Neville Grant has a love affair with agriculture

Published:Tuesday | August 23, 2016 | 8:00 AMClaudia Gardner
Champion Farmer Neville Grant (centre), and members of his team at Green River Farm
Champion farmer Neville Grant at his yam farm in Kendal
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Western Bureau:

Sixty-year-old Neville Grant, national champion farmer and owner of the 126-acre Green River Farm in Hanover, has had a connection with agriculture from since he was a boy growing up in Kendal in the parish.

In fact, it was his intention to pursue tertiary studies in agriculture, but circumstances led to him pursuing his first degree in dental technology instead.

"I was born in England and came to Jamaica when I was four years old. I attended Kendal All-Age School. I used to get up at 4:00 a.m. - before school - move the cows, feed the pigs and chickens, and get ready for school for 6:00 a.m. I hated it, because I was forced to do it," said Grant.

The Jamaica Agricultural Society Champion Farmer attended the Green Island Secondary School, the Savanna-la-mar High School in Westmoreland, and later migrated to the United States at age 15.

"I was motivated to farm during the Michael Manley era. When I went to New York, the first thing I looked for was an agricultural school. They didn't have much of that around, so I would have had to go to Texas or those places," he explained.

"I worked there (US) for 37 years in that field (dental) - owned my own laboratory - but my passion was farming always. After five years, I bought this property here at Green River. After years of doing dentistry, I really wanted to come back and farm," he said.

 

THE BACKBONE OF JAMAICA

 

Grant is now one of the largest pig farmers in western Jamaica and operates a state-of the-art piggery operation with more than 1,000 heads of pigs, as well as horses, cattle, and small ruminants. The cattle function as 'lawn mowers' to keep new trees from springing up. horses are used to round up cattle, but Grant describes the goat-rearing as simply "a hobby".

His piggery was established in 1978 after a friend of his, who was migrating to Saudi Arabia, sold him two pigs, the female of which was pregnant and subsequently gave birth to several large litters. He later built a pig stall and appointed his nephew to care for the animals in his absence.

Green River Farm boasts three micro-dams, which Grant designed himself. each of them has the capacity to supply the entire operation for as much as eight months. It is, however, his 5,000-bank yam field located on a hillside to the back of his home in Kendal that Grant is particularly proud of.

Grant attributes his knowledge of farming techniques to reading widely and understudying large farmers in the US.

"When I was in America every downtime I got, I would go to Iowa, Pennsylvania, all over the states where they had big farms. I would be on those harvesters with those guys watching how mechanised systems worked. One guy would have, for example, 10,000 pigs and it's only him and his son that work on his farm because everything is mechanised and it's easy," he said.

"I know that farming is the backbone of Jamaica's development. My goal was never to do peasant-level farming. I wanted to do farming on a modernised level where it can be compared to first world countries," he said.

Grant's short-term plans are to make the now semi-automated operations at Green River Farms fully automated.

His advice for upcoming farmers: "You have to have passion and patience and then the money will come."