Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
LINSTEAD, St Catherine:
CARVING OUT a living from selling peanuts was never on Aewan Barrett's books when he was growing up. In fact, he wanted to become a chef, but that didn't materialise because of a lack of financial backing.
After leaving school, he worked in several capacities until he obtained a job in a prominent hardware store in Spanish Town. However, seven years ago, when its shutters were closed, placing him among the unemployed, the Linstead resident opted to do odd jobs to make ends meet.
Determined to fulfil his family obligations, Barrett, who does not believe in waiting on the Government to provide a job for him, explored several initiatives.
"I had a friend who lives in Spanish Town who had been selling peanuts for years. After I lost my job, he asked me to help him sell, and I did it. One day, he called me and said, 'Look here, I'm going to do something for you because I realise that you are not working now and you have your family to take care of'," Barrett explained to The Gleaner.
The 35-year-old, born in Cudjoe Hill, near Point Hill in west central St Catherine, said one week later, he returned to see his friend.
"He gave me a scandal bag full of peanuts," he gesticulated, "and told me to turn it over. And I began to sell raw peanuts and realised that it was going fast," he said.
But the minister of religion wanted to give his customers a variety of products from which to choose.
"I tried the salted peanuts; it began to sell. I tried the baked ital; it began to sell. Then I tried the peanut cake, and wow! That's where the market began to open up," he said with satisfaction.
Now, one year later, the Spanish Town Secondary alumnus supplies his customers with seven products on the peanut line.
"Raw peanut, baked ital peanut, peanut mixed with raisins, peanut cake, salted peanut, peanut trash, and peanut cake baked with raisins - that's done by order," he listed.
He said the peanut trash is in great demand.
"I did the peanut trash by inspiration. When I bake the peanut, when I shell it off, I sieve out the trash. The trash is not eaten. You boil it for about five minutes, you strain it and make tea. It's good for the nerves. It's a tea product. It sells more than the peanut itself," he explained.
The father of two children, a boy and a girl produced from a nine-year marriage, Barrett sells all his products for $50 each.
"I have a lot of customers. I have a lot of stores that I supply in Linstead. I have customers in Ewarton and Bog Walk also," he said.
But he was quick to point out that there was a time when he was tempted to give up the business.
"I buy the peanut in St Elizabeth and sometimes I can't get peanut to buy. There was a time when the crop was out and the price doubled, and I was discouraged," he related.
However, it was customers like Marvia Barnett whose encouraging words and continuous support motivated him to continue.
"I support him weekly because I love peanut cake, and I find his products very good. They are not too sweet. They are not too fresh, they are just right. He is a very pleasant and polite, and well-attired person," Barnett shared with The Gleaner.
An appreciative Barrett said, "When you realise that you do something, and people love and appreciate it, you want to continue, and you have to find a way to make a living."
PHOTOS BY KAREN SUDU