Love affair with the land
Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
The sounds of whistling birds, crowing cocks and chirping crickets permeate the quiet district of Lemon Hall, perched between Lluidas Vale in northwest St Catherine and the border of Clarendon.
A common feature of the small farming district, parts of which are accessible only by foot or by donkey, is the fertile plots of land under cultivation or being readied for crops.
The prominence of agricultural production is further underlined by the occasional emergence of a farmer, donning sweat-stained clothes, tattered shoes and a dirty cap, equipped with a cutlass, fork or hoe, going to or returning from his field.
Up until the 1970s, when he became ill, this was a daily activity of Samuel Gordon's, a home-grown son of Lemon Hall.
Even before he completed his education at Kentish Elementary School, Gordon would be tilling the soil under the red-hot sun, and sometimes in the pouring rain. So, it was nothing new when he decided to make it a lifelong job.
"Me grow red, cow and gungo peas, potatoes and cassava. Me raise cows, goats and donkeys, too. Me did have up to seven donkey one time, and even chicken, too," Gordon boasted.
"Me live off me own income. Me never used to borrow from no bank and Government never used to give me nothing," the retired farmer stated proudly. "As a matter of fact, me never do nothing else but farming."
At age 109, the jovial and loquacious senior attributes his longevity to good old-time Jamaican ground provisions.
"When mi a grow, mi care mi body. Mi drink good juice and eat good food like cassava. Cassava a best t'ing fi eat," he said, posing like the lead character in an advertisement promoting cassava.
One of his 20 children and caregiver, 55-year-old Joyce, a farmer herself, attests to his diet.
"He loves to eat cassava, coco and toya. Toya is something similar to coco and it have the colour like cornmeal. Him love ground provision," she said.
"When I was growing up, he used to raise pigs. He used to kill a pig and corn it and put it in the kerosene pan, and when they kill goat, they used it to boil soup," she added, recalling the days when she, too, ate from the soup pot cooked on firewood.
Gordon's reflection on the sumptuous corn pork and cassava dishes produced a burst of laughter.
"Another thing, too," Joyce seemed to remember, "they used cow's milk to cook rice and peas, them never use coconut milk."
Nowadays, the centenarian sits at his bedroom window or stands at his back door and admires his daughter's crops.
While lamenting the absence of his favourite pastime, he says he hopes young people will recognise the significance of farming in the development of Jamaica's economy.
"I miss farming, man. I miss planting all mi crops, especially cassava ... . Once you have something in the ground, Jamaican people can never hungry," he smiled.