Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
WALKERSWOOD, St Ann: AFTER YEARS of working as a mechanic and then as a minibus operator, it finally dawned on 44-year-old Wighan Gordon that agriculture was his calling. Now, after seven years in the fields, Gordon believes he made the right choice.
Gordon is the president of the Walkerswood Farmers Group in Walkerswood, St Ann. He is also a member of the Greenhouse Growers' Association of Jamaica. More important, he is a farmer who specialises in sweet peppers, hot peppers, and tomatoes, among other crops from time to time.
"After leaving school, I started doing mechanic work, learned trade for a couple of years, and then worked for about seven to eight years," Gordon told The Gleaner. "After doing that, I operated a minibus for roughly the same amount of years. Then after getting fed up of that type of work - the competition and all of that - I decided I needed something else to settle with because I was no longer comfortable in that field."
POTENTIAL IN AGRICULTURE
His father was a farmer, but as a young boy, Gordon never liked the idea of farming. But later on as an adult, he realised there was great potential in agriculture.
"Growing up and seeing the potential to earn some money, I decided to try it while operating a minibus, asking people to work, but it never worked out because my presence was needed. Without your presence, you won't be successful in the business of farming," Gordon related.
"I started outdoors with pumpkin and tomato, but the first two years were challenging, and I was thinking of making a switch again. But then I was introduced to greenhouse technology by USAID (United States Agency for International Development) and UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), and after seeing that it was possible to make some money from this thing, selling coloured sweet peppers. I started expanding in that field and building greenhouses for myself."
Gordon now owns six greenhouses, totalling about 32,000 square feet, where he grows sweet peppers throughout the year, rotating the use of the houses. He has several young people working for him. Some are full-time while others are task workers who are employed to pick peppers and are paid by the pound.
Persons have touted agriculture as a means of getting Jamaica out of its economic mess, and Gordon believes it can definitely play a great role.
AVENUE FOR OCCUPATION
"I think agriculture is one of the main vehicles to take us out of the crisis that the country is in right now," he said. "A lot of people would do agriculture, but they need some assistance. If we can identify people who can do the work and are not afraid of the work, I think the country should put some emphasis and support behind them and identify financial institutions which can assist them if they can't do it alone.
"We should let people see that in agriculture there is an avenue for an occupation and that you can earn a lot of money from it, not just from being a lawyer or doctor."
The Gleaner visited Gordon at a section of a 40-acre farm occupied by nine farmers, including Gordon, who are part of the 39-member farmers' group that supplies peppers to the nearby Walkerswood Factory.
They are not so lucky when it comes to finding markets for their other crops, including cabbage, sweet potato, and pumpkin.
Gordon believes the Government can help farmers by limiting the importation of goods which compete with those grown locally.
"That's where we have a challenge - when we have to compete with foreign goods," he argued.
But for now, Gordon is satisfied with being a farmer.
"My greatest satisfaction is planting my crops and seeing them come to perfection and then eating the crops that I plant. Even if I don't make money off them, I am satisfied because I planted them," stated Gordon.