This week, Farmers Weekly presents the second in a series of features on agricultural training institutions with the Sydney Pagon Agricultural High School.
Rayon Dyer, Gleaner Writer
BLACK RIVER, St. Elizabeth:
ESTABLISHED IN 1979, the Sydney Pagon Agricultural High School, formerly Elim Agricultural School, is the only agricultural training institution in St. Elizabeth.
The school is located in the community of Elim approximately three miles from the Appleton Sugar Factory. It offers training in Agricultural Science and Home Economics, among other areas.
But although Elim has had an enviable history as a premier agricultural training institution, it has been grappling with a major issue.
"The school is strictly an agricultural institution. However, we are having a serious problem recruiting students for the agricultural programme," said Blansford Henry, principal.
"We have been trying to enlighten students about the benefits that can be had from agriculture but the response is far less than we desire."
At present, the enrolment of students in the school's agricultural programme is less than usual.
But despite the challenge, the school's self-sustained farms continue to produce at admirable levels, supplying a large amount of pork, poultry and eggs to the parish.
And according to Mr. Henry, the achievements were made despite the lack of important facilities for its poultry and goat farms.
"We also need facilities for the institution where the students can do physical education," said head boy Maurice Coke.
Coke, who intends to become a farm manager upon graduating later this year, told Farmers Weekly that the institution has had a significant on impact on him.
"Over the years the school has been a proud educational institution because it is more than just teaching students how to use machetes and hoes," he said.
The school has won several gold and silver awards in the annual Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC), speech and drama competitions.
Responding to comments that many young persons were not involved in agriculture, he advised that "Farming is not a degrading occupation, it is not dirty work... An enormous amount of benefits can be reaped from it."