Knockalva : an Agricultural powerhouse
The Knockalva Agricultural School lies in the midst of one of Jamaica's most fertile expanse of agricultural lands, the rural community of Ramble in eastern Hanover.
The school, which is the only one of its kind in the parish of Hanover and western Jamaica, could be described as an agricultural training powerhouse. It was one of the most sought-after agricultural institutions in Jamaica, until about two decades ago. Since its inception in 1940, it has produced some of Jamaica's finest agriculturists, many of whom have even gone on to become businessmen in agro-industry, public servants and even professors in some of North America's best colleges and universities.
NOTABLE PAST STUDENTS
Some of the numerous notable past students include food and agriculture expert Rayal Hill; immediate past principal of the school, Dr Josh Nelson; former national athlete George Kerr, Robert Saams, Professor Al Thompson and chartered accountant Horace Hyatt.
Noted rural sociologist Cedric McCulloch is also a Knockalva old boy. McCulloch, who hails from Westmoreland, was a specialist in the Evaluation of Agricultural Extension Programme at the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands between 1965 and '69, and was permanent secretary in the Ministry of Youth and Community Development from 1979 to 1986.
Owner of St Thomas-based Stanmark Food Processors, Canute Sadler, is also a proud past student and president of the school's alumni. Stanmark is one of the largest producers of authentic Jamaican farm produce and presently exports hundreds of millions of dollars worth of canned ackees, callaloo, breadfruit, jerk seasoning and other condiments, and fruit juices. It also does processing for private companies.
Knockalva Agricultural School sits on 199 acres of land, and is a stone's throw from the Ramble main road, which links the parishes of Westmoreland and St James to Hanover and also leads to St Elizabeth via Bethel Town.
Knockalva was established in 1940 as a practical training centre, but changed focus in 1962 to an agricultural training centre, offering a two-year programme in vocational agriculture, with the objective of providing agricultural and technical training for 15- to 17-year-old youngsters who would not be able to get further training otherwise.
In 1980, the school was upgraded to an agricultural school offering a three-year programme to youths 15 to 20. The aim then was to, among other things, provide training in scientific agriculture; operate an economically viable school to enhance self-sufficiency; to equip students with farm and entrepreneurial skills; and to assist the development of neighbouring schools and communities through technical expertise.
Today, the school offers two- and three-year programmes in general agriculture at the semi-tertiary level and core subjects at the CXC level to youngsters between the ages of 15 and 18.