Speaking to JIS News in an interview during a tour of his one acre onion farm in Yallahs recently, Mr. Lynch reminisced on his journey into farming, explaining that the inspiration came from his grandfather.
“I remember visiting my grandfather in the hospital, who all his life had done farming. He said to me, ‘Even if someone doesn’t buy your crops, you can save yourself from starvation. You can barter, because John might have some bananas and you plant something else, so you can exchange’,” Mr. Lynch recalled.
“He advised me that ‘You can gain everything in this world, if you can give people what they want and food is the basis of life, so it is a good profession to venture into’,” the young farmer added.
Mr. Lynch explained that this advice came at a time when he was on a quest to find his true calling, which at the time he thought was nursing. “But life had other plans for me,” he said.
After graduating from Yallahs High School in 2005, Mr. Lynch would find himself doing several jobs, so he could save up enough money to sit the additional CSEC subjects for nursing school.
Among the jobs he would often undertake was bee farming, a skill he quickly learned and for which he had a special knack.
A few years later, with the assistance of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Lynch would venture even further into farming by becoming a part of the Agro Parks initiative under which he currently grows onions.
Though it is still early days, as this is his first season of planting the crop, Mr. Lynch said the prospects look promising.
“My experience so far has been very good and in terms of the overall cost of production and the yield, I can see where it will pay off. It is hard work, but I’m excited to do it again and again,” he said.
Mr. Lynch, who expects to reap more than 20,000 pounds of onion from his farm within the next few days, is among a number of farmers in the eastern parish who are contributing significantly to the Government’s onion development programme.
The goal of the initiative is to achieve self-sufficiency in onion production by 2017/2018, in order to reduce the importation of the crop into Jamaica.
The country needs to produce about 1,000 to 1,400 hectares of onion as well as increase current production from about 12 tonnes per hectare to at least 20 tonnes in order to become self-sufficient.
With the efforts of farmers like Mr. Lynch, at least 1.1 million kilograms of onions are expected to be harvested within the next three months from farms across the island.
The programme has been bolstered by the assistance of the GOJ/Adaptation Fund Programme, which has provided farmers with both financial and technical support.
The initiative, which is being managed by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), is being undertaken in collaboration with the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and the National Irrigation Commission (NIC).
To date, approximately 175 farmers within the agro-parks and other communities in the parishes of St. Thomas, St. Catherine, Manchester, St. Ann, St. Mary, Clarendon and Trelawny, who face the greatest level of risk from climate change, have received assistance under the programme.
Mr. Lynch said he is more than grateful for the assistance, which involved the provision of farming equipment, seedlings and training in land management and drip irrigation techniques.
“We got drip irrigation equipment such as hose, drip and tanks and that assisted us in taking the water to the farm, so that we have adequate water for our crops,” Mr. Lynch informed.
“The training also helped, especially in terms of scoping the field and looking for pests and other things. Based on the training we received from the field school, I learned a number of things about managing my land and how to spray my crops,” he said.
Mr. Lynch is encouraging other young people “to give farming a try”.
“I see this as a very sustainable source of income and it has provided employment for many persons in the community,” he argued.
The young farmer also noted that he has been able to provide employment for a few friends. “People have been able to come and do a couple days work and were able to earn and put their pots on fire from this venture,” he noted.
Mr. Lynch said his three-year goal is to save up enough money to pursue a course in Agricultural Science at the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE), in Portland. “The sky is the limit for me. I want to take this as far as I can go,” he said.
In the meantime, Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Derrick Kellier, said he is encouraged by Mr. Lynch’s interest in agriculture.
“I am very impressed with what young Mr. Lynch is doing and his own call to other youngsters in the area to participate in the farming activity,” he added.
Pointing out that the average age for farmers in Jamaica is 65 years old, Mr. Kellier said the Government is on a drive to increase the number of youth involved in agriculture.
He explained that this is to address the sustainability of the industry and to ensure food security for the country.
“I want to encourage our youth farmers and to let them know that the Ministry of Agriculture, through its agencies, has the relevant support for them in terms of technical assistance, advice and extension services,” the Minister said.
Mr. Kellier is appealing to all young persons who are unemployed and have land available to them, “to come and speak with their RADA officers, and they will direct them on the right path to take.”
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