Jamaica Gleaner / As a child growing up on her father’s farm in the district of Elliot in Richmond, St Mary, Jasmine Hyde loved cultivating crops. After completing an associate degree in general agriculture, she transformed her passion into a 16-year career working at the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).
For the past 18 months, Hyde has been RADA’s manager in St Mary, and clearly enjoys her role overseeing the implementation of the organisation’s programmes and projects in the parish where she was born and raised.
She explained recently to Rural Xpress : “I work alongside a team whose main aim is to help increase livestock and crop production across the parish by providing farmers and farm families with training and technical advice on things like marketing, land management, and social services.
“Sometimes people look down on those who work in agriculture,” Hyde commented, “because they think of a poor man with dirty clothes who struggles and doesn’t have anything, even though that man may be able to send his children to university.”
She disclosed that things are changing and professionals like medical doctors, lawyers, and teachers are now investing in agriculture because of its earning potential.
“Young farmers are doing well, too, especially those who are utilising greenhouse technology,” said the RADA manager. “Young people need more start-up capital, but once they get it and are determined, they move up the ladder quickly,” she added, while pointing to young people who are investing in farming in St Ann, St Mary and St Elizabeth.
Hyde believes farmers should be saluted and that the society should be investing in them and doing more to promote agriculture because, as a small country, we cannot survive without that sector and we must feed ourselves.
RADA compiles monthly production reports and assists with the preparation of simple business plans, and offers services such as truck, tractor, and tool rental. However, the project that most excites Hyde is the launch of an agro-processing facility next door to her office in Port Maria.
She explained: “The building has been completed and we have all the equipment. Some of it is yet to be installed, but we’re looking to be ready before the end of 2017.
“Once that facility, which is funded by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, is ready, it will become a hub where people from St Mary, St Ann, and Portland, who make sauces, jams, jellies, and baked produce, can come and get their products processed, labelled, and packaged.”
Moving forward, Hyde hopes to develop a system that will help St Mary’s farmers market and distribute their goods more effectively. She said there are times when farmers produce crops, but because there is a glut on the market, they are left with a lot of produce on their hands.
“We don’t have adequate cold trucks to move the produce, so there will be times when we have a lot of bananas in St Mary, but there are none in St Elizabeth,” Hyde reported. “And if you carried a hand down there, people would be clamouring to buy; so distribution is a major problem for us.”