From ac­coun­tant to farmer

A mother dis­cov­ers the joys of farm­ing

Jamaica Gleaner - - GROWTH & JOBS -

THE SHIFT from ac­counts to farm­ing was not as hard as you might think for Diana Small. For seven years, she pur­sued an ac­count­ing ca­reer at one of the top re­tail­ers in The Cay­man Is­lands, but the birth of her first child three years ago, and the changed eco­nomic cir­cum­stances in those sis­ter is­lands, prompted her to make a dra­matic move.

“Af­ter the birth of my daugh­ter, Di­hema, I did not want to leave her with any­one. I wanted to spend time with her un­til she was old enough to at­tend ba­sic school,” Small re­lated. “I re­turned home to Ja­maica, but I needed to work to sup­port my fam­ily, so I de­cided that I would farm.”

She had ac­cess to land owned by her grand­mother in Knap­dale, a small com­mu­nity near Brown’s Town, St Ann. A cousin, who was in the poul­try in­dus­try, sug­gested that she raise chick­ens. With his en­cour­age­ment, she built two coops to house 100 broiler chicks as well as 65 lay­ers and quickly started climb­ing a steep learn­ing curve.

Her big­gest ini­tial chal­lenge in­volved the sim­ple fact that chick­ens are har­vested on a poul­try farm. She ad­mits that “when it was time to pluck them, I could not watch be­cause I felt so sad”.

She had to learn to over­come that squeamish­ness and also how to deal with the chal­lenge of trans­port­ing eggs us­ing pub­lic trans­porta­tion, which lim­ited the quan­ti­ties she could carry.

By at­tend­ing sem­i­nars and get­ting in­for­ma­tion on­line, she learnt when chick­ens reached ma­tu­rity and that adding more saw­dust to the coops for the lay­ers kept the eggs cleaner and re­duced their ex­po­sure to water.

“My cus­tomers loved the fact that the eggs stayed fresh for longer,” she said, adding that “su­per­mar­kets also be­came aware that their cus­tomers liked the qual­ity of my eggs”.

And as the de­mand for the eggs in­creased, she in­vested in more lay­ers, ex­pand­ing that side of the busi­ness.

“I sup­plied five su­per­mar­kets across St Ann and could not meet the de­mand. Also, my cus­tomers paid faster for the egg or­ders, Ex­tra saw­dust in the coops im­proves egg qual­ity. which were con­sis­tent through­out the year,” vi­brant na­tional in­dus­try, which Roy Baker, she re­lated. pres­i­dent of the Ja­maica Egg Farm­ers

The in­creased de­mand meant that she As­so­ci­a­tion (JEFA), says now em­ploys needed to ex­pand her op­er­a­tions fur­ther, but about 3,000 per­sons di­rectly and an­other she didn’t have the funds to do so. That was 3,000 in­di­rectly. when a friend sug­gested go­ing to JN Small Ja­maica had 2,000 small and 100 large Busi­ness Loans (JNSBL). farm­ers pro­duc­ing more than 140 mil­lion eggs in 2014, meet­ing the na­tional de­mand in a sec­tor pre­vi­ously de­pen­dent on im­ported eggs, ac­cord­ing to data from the JEFA. Rel­a­tive to the size of the pop­u­la­tion, that puts Ja­maica as one of the low­est eggcon­sum­ing coun­tries in the Amer­i­cas.

“We are ham­pered by any de­pre­ci­a­tion of the dol­lar be­cause 80 to 85 per cent of the raw ma­te­rial we use is im­ported,” Baker said, adding, how­ever, that “the in­dus­try is ex­tremely valu­able to the lo­cal econ­omy and there is a lot of po­ten­tial for growth.”

A mid­dle-ranked pro­ducer, Small now has a pro­duc­tion line of more than 2,000 lay­ers and 800 broil­ers, and de­spite a chal­lenge with water sup­plies in Knap­dale, has big plans for the decade ahead. She de­clared, “I want to be able to sup­ply su­per­mar­kets across the coun­try and es­tab­lish a brand based on the fresh­ness of my eggs.”

And if you are think­ing of be­com­ing a farmer, she says, “I rec­om­mend it as a ca­reer, but you need to love it be­cause it is hard work.”

JN TO THE RES­CUE

“They came to my res­cue when I needed them most,” she said. “The JNSBL of­fi­cer vis­ited the farm and sug­gested how many chick­ens I should buy to meet the de­mand. And given that 360 eggs could hold in a case, they also rec­om­mended how I should pack them for trans­port.

“The of­fi­cers pro­vided solid ad­vice about farm man­age­ment,” Small shared. “I de­vel­oped a good re­la­tion­ship with them.”

Gil­lian Hyde, gen­eral man­ager of JNSBL, pointed out, “Farm­ing can be chal­leng­ing. The fact that Miss Small has suc­ceeded in es­tab­lish­ing a broiler and egg-pro­duc­tion op­er­a­tion speaks to her ded­i­ca­tion.”

“Her drive to ex­pand to meet de­mand also demon­strates that she is com­mit­ted to the growth of her en­ter­prise,” Hyde stated. “We are here to sup­port such en­ter­prises, whether it is in farm­ing or other busi­ness ar­eas.”

With four full-time em­ploy­ees and sev­eral part-timers cur­rently, Small is part of a

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