RURAL EXPRESS - Crooked River farmers unite
Cecelia Campbell-Livingston, Gleaner Writer
CROOKED RIVER, Clarendon:
THE CROOKED River United Farmers Association (CRUFA) is now 25 members strong and counting.
In an interview with Rural Xpress, president Darrick Grant said the association was formed because the farmers in the area wanted units. "The farmers in the area are of the opinion that because they are not a part of a united body, they are faced with more challenges than solutions. For example, not being able to take advantage of opportunities such as accessing markets and technical support," he said.
Located in McDonald District in the area, their crops vary from pineapples and yams,cocoa, plantain and oranges, with farming being their main source of income.
The president, however, is an architect by profession "but has a passion for farming".
After studying in Cuba, Grant returned home. He encouraged people in his community to do farming. He decided to take his own advice and started farming too. "I lost a lot of money in the trade because I didn't know as much about it as I thought I did," he said, adding that the association is now there for knowledge sharing.
Since the association has been formed, Grant said it has been having a great impact on the community at large.
"The group has raised levels of optimism and now more farmers are emerging as a result of the clear visions set out by us," he said. Another plus is that they have been able to get well-needed technical support in the form of a Peace Corp worker - an environmental scientist assigned to a nearby community - Benjamin Cowen. He assists them with well-needed advice.
With the association promoting farming in the area as a business, Grant said farmers now have more self-confidence.
"The practice is being promoted as a business, not as something people do because they are not educated or what they would divert to as a result of the lack of opportunities in other fields," he said.
The effort doesn't come without its challenges though, as they range from "political, financial to illiteracy.
"The challenges are many and are sometimes similar to what most Jamaicans face when trying to organise ourselves for a better future for all the family, community, country and ultimately the world," Grant told Rural Xpress.
Among the stigma they had to overcome was the belief some had that the group had a political agenda behind its formation. Grant is already in preparation mode to battle some of the challenges as he said there are plans to begin a literacy class for interested persons. The president's parting shot to others is "unemployment is a state of mind ... your job self-employment is always the highest level of freedom, and in the meanwhile volunteer, give what you can to make our country a better place to live."