When 70-year-old Carlton Fearon was a boy, he had a dream of living on his own farming property in the country. The Bernard Lodge, St. Catherine, native envisioned long, rolling acres of farmland along the countryside with cattle and produce to sustain his family and the neighbouring community.
The father of nine with nine grandchildren, who hails from a large family of arable and pastoral farmers, said, “Mi grow up in agriculture. Mi ah country boy, so mi always waan live pon mi farm wid mi big ole dog dem and mi animals just roaming the farm. Ah dem environment deh mi love. Jus’ me and mi animals and mi food weh mi a grow.”
Fearon realized this dream early and has enjoyed a career in agriculture spanning decades starting from his teenage years. His specialty crop of choice was his beloved sugarcane, though he also grew oranges and tobacco while rearing cattle and pigs to supply the meat-processing industry. In recent years, however, Fearon has faced a number of hardships that he says has caused many farmers to abandon the noble field. Determined to remain in the industry he loves, he has now decided to try his hand at the cassava crop as part of Red Stripe’s Project Grow.
Flagship Agricultural Project
The Jamaican beer company’s flagship agricultural project was launched in 2013 for the purpose of using cassava as the local alternative to importing high-maltose corn syrup for use in its production process. In an effort to further the development of the agriculture sector and give local farmers an opportunity to earn, the 99-year-old company made the decision to utilize the popular crop based on its ease to process while not interfering with the signature beer’s taste and colour.
Business Development Manager for Local Raw Materials at Red Stripe, Dr. Cavell Francis-Rhiney, in speaking about the importance of the programme, said, “Project Grow has many benefits for our local farmers, most importantly, security and consistency within a fluctuating market with Red Stripe as the contracted buyer for a three-year period. It also gives them the opportunity to broaden their expertise as we will provide intensive assistance throughout the growth process.”
Also among these benefits is having access to information from Red Stripe’s farming and growth experts, and the initial provision of a ‘farmer’s kit’ that aids farmers in covering 35 to 40 per cent of the overall production cost. The kit, which is optional, contains planting materials, irrigation equipment and fertilizer for the first year of production.