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Stabroek News

Carrots in the 'breadbasket'
published: Tuesday | March 25, 2008

Latoya Grindley, Features Writer

Linton Dixon (left) and his fellow farmers hard at work on their farm in Southfield, St Elizabeth. - Norman Grindley/Deputy Chief Photographer

St Elizabeth is known for its pelting 'sun hot' and for being the breadbasket parish of Jamaica. It got this name thanks to all the hardworking farmers in the parish.

On a recent weekday morning, a Gleaner features team met six such farmers sitting under a tree in Southfield, surrounded by carrots, leaves and what Jamaicans call, crocus bags. They were picking the leaves off the carrots.

After enquiring about the inactivity I had noticed on other nearby farms, I was told of the strategies many farmers use.

"Well, we get up about 6 o'clock and head out to the farm. So, by 7 or 7:30, we start work and then we break about 9:30," said Linton Dixon, a farmer for 30 years.

Depending on what there is to do, most of the farmers leave by 10 o'clock in order to escape the wrath of the sun.

For Dixon, his job nowadays has to do with preparing his carrots for sale to vendors and to a nearby factory. "Is now harvest time for some of di carrots, so we doing this now and by 2:30, we leave here," he said.

Break time

One of his sons, who also works on the farm, added that they are normally entitled to two breaks, one at 9:30 a.m and the other at 12:30 p.m.

The carrots that the farmers were preparing varied in size. Some resembled fingers and were just as small, and others were huge. So if the carrots were planted using the same type of seeds, and at the same time, how is it that they varied in shape and size?

"Well, you can't get all of them the same. Some will come out big and some come out small. Is just so it is. Sometimes, you even have heavy rain and this adds to the size of some, because they get plenty water," the seasoned farmer said.

Who would really buy the small ones when the much bigger ones are available? Dixon says none go to waste. "You see, the small ones is what make a lot of the juices like tin carrot juice. That is why we sell it to the factory and they carry out all the preparations necessary. The vendors dem will more buy the bigger ones because it easier to sell, but everything use up."

Bad weather is always a farmer's fear as it can hamper production and, by extension, their livelihood. At present, some farms in the parish are being affected by drought.

Dixon's farm is no different and it has affected some of his crops. "Well, right now, I can't reap some of the carrots because of the drought, and the dirt very dry and this happens when there is no rain. When rain falls, it loosens the dirt."

Heavy and continuous rain is also hazardous for crops.

"The rain can mash up crops, like sweet pepper, melon and tomato, because of the constant beating on them."

Dixon knows how to survive only through farming and has even got two of his sons into the profession.

Unfortunately, he says, not many young people are interested in this field. "Farming is expensive. Young people can't really afford it. Look at all fertiliser price, it gone up. Is mostly foundation people a do it now."

Other than having the assistance of his two sons, Dixon has employed other men to help him on the farm.

The sun-burned face of the farmer is a reflection of all the hard years he has spent working on the farm. Still, he appeared quite enthused doing what he knows best.

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