Beacon of the day | Family wins parish title, falls in love with farming in pandemic

Lavern Knight and her two children are the combined winners for the parish of St. Catherine in the Family Backyard Garden Challenge, hosted by The Jamaica 4-H Club.

Knight, who teaches at Spanish Town Primary School, said she started to plant crops at her home while schools were closed amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

She explained that she was doing some work in her flower garden at home in the Spanish Town area of St. Catherine when the idea to also plant crops crossed her mind.

The crops planted included calalloo, pak choi, pumpkin, banana, plantain, sorrel, gungo, peppers, escellion, and ginger.

“We have tried over 20 different types of crops,” Knight told The Beacon.

“We have reaped and given away to our friends and neighbours, and we are still in the planting process and reaping process… The plants are life and, because of that, we treat them as babies. We are really excited.”

Knight further stated that, being a former Home Economics teacher, she focuses on healthy eating, and so grows crops to facilitate that.

Her involvement in subsistence farming also resulted in her saving cash.

“It helps economically. I go to the market every Saturday – and it is pretty expensive. Just eating from your backyard, you feel so good about that,” Knight said.

Similar sentiments were expressed by her 19-year-old son, Joel James, a first-year student at the University of the West Indies, where he is pursuing a degree in Environmental Science.

He is pleased to have joined his mother and sister in farming, which he said blends in nicely with his area of study.

“[My area of study] really comes into play with what I am doing in the backyard garden. It goes hand-in-hand learning the theory and actually practicing it at home. It helps me to uderstand the cncepts I am being taught at school.”

Joel added: “Many people would say 2020 is a year that was bad for them, but, through the resting period, we got a chance to do something different – and it was very good.”

Joel is elated about the yields although his family lost some crops in the initial stages.

He explained: “We lost a lot of crops because we were not educated enough to do it. But, if you give up on the crops, you will never get the yield you want. Once you are determined and driven, you will reap the reward, and that would also help you in your everyday life to never give up.”

Joel and his family, now more knowledgeable and enthusiastic about farming, are planning to expand their backyard garden and grow crops long after the COVID-19 period.

“We are continuing because we have prepared a new plot of land to extend our farm. I am definitely continuing this,” he told The Beacon.

Meanwhile, Joel’s sister, Shanoya James, who is in Grade Nine at Jonathan Grant High School, is ecstatic about winning the Family Backyard Garden Challenge at the parish level. “It feels good and I am feeling happy,” she said.

The family, which said it became cognizant about the competition after starting the garden, is now in the national finals and is oozing confidence about its chances of winning the overall challenge.


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