Gareth Davis Sr, Gleaner Writer
Portland:His ability to charm customers, accompanied by the sharing of jokes while peeling cane, appears to be doing the trick for Albert Swaby. He sells from his handcart at Boundbrook in Port Antonio, Portland, adjacent to the old wharf.
Swaby, who is from the old school of farmers, has stuck to his belief and practice of refusing to use fertiliser on crops grown by him. The 76-year-old farmer, who also sports a cheerful smile, can be overheard from time to time offering encouraging words to the young and elderly.
"I am just a cane man," uttered Swaby.
He added: "I never had the opportunity of attending school as my parents were poor farmers. I might have gone to school, but it wasn't for more than a few weeks throughout my lifetime. However, my cane-selling business has allowed me to change that tradition, and all my children have attended school regularly. I have provided them with an opportunity to be able to choose their own profession, which is a chance I never had. I am proud of what I am doing and it puts food on my table."
Swaby, who also grows yams, dasheen, plantain, and banana on his three and half acres of farmlands in the remote hills of Janga Gully just outside of Port Antonio, explained that his journey to the farm starts out as early as 4:30 a.m. daily in order to cut cane and bring them out on his shoulders back to civilisation (the roadway).
According to Swaby, trodding the five-mile journey from home to the farm enables him to remain fit and agile as the pure and unpolluted early morning air also works wonders for his lungs.
Swaby also explained that his faithful handcart, which he has nicknamed 'Betsy', was built in the 1980s out of cedar and remained strong and sturdy despite having to haul sugar cane on a daily basis.
Continued Swaby: "The cane-selling business has been good over the years. I get support from students, taxi operators, the police, teachers, and other community residents. From time to time, persons would make requests for large amounts of cane, which I always manage to fulfil.
"This cane business has worked well for me, and it has allowed me to send my six children to school full time and to also take care of my lovely wife."