Farmers unable to meet the high demand in lucrative market
Christopher Serju, Gleaner Writer
What possible connection could there be between a monthly lyme in Beverly Hills, St Andrew, and a sheep farm in Rhymesbury, Clarendon? A lot, actually!
Friends Neville Graham, Carlington Wright and Richard Smith, engineers by training, who are also partners in the farming operation, host the monthly get-together.
It is, in fact, the major plank in their marketing strategy, as only lamb-based meals are served - burger, curried, brown stewed, barbecued and Hawaiian style, with the appetiser being lamb soup. Yes, lamb soup!
Graham told AgroGleaner that this was designed with the aim of exposing more people to lamb meat, in the hope they will want to buy it to prepare at home - in the process, boosting their sales.
Though having its ups and downs, the venture over the past three years has been encouraging for the first-time farmers whose flock has grown from 50 to 150 animals. Still, they are unable to meet demand for lamb, which commands premium price, despite slaughtering between 150 and 200 animals.
The market for lamb meat is lucrative, and so, even though the trio plans to explore other value-added areas such as mutton and wool in the long term, for now, this is where their efforts are concentrated.
Slaughtering of the animals is done in a certified abattoir, where the carcasses are rendered into choice cuts for delivery to clients in the Corporate Area - among them a jerk vendor, restaurant and butcher.
Encouraged by the steady growth in sales, Graham and company are looking to expand the herd in excess of 500 sheep on the 20-acre property, with the aim of also buying from other farmers, to supplement their business whenever necessary. For now, however, the outlook is good and the sheep farmers who got into the business quite by mistake are learning as they go along.
In fact, they were looking to get into beekeeping upon returning from Trinidad and, upon visiting the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to get the relevant information, heard a receptionist talking about sheep farming. Upon enquiring, they were directed to the Jamaica Sheep Farmers Association and, after attending a few meetings, were invited to some sheep farms to get a first-hand look at sheep farming, and were hooked.
So now Graham, who is a trained chemical engineer, and his partners who are mechanical engineers, have also added sheep farmer to their resumé, having registered with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA). He is pursuing further studies while they are working in the areas of their professional training, but for now they are enjoying this venture, far removed from their professional field of training.