By Jamar Grant, Jamaica Beacon Journalist
Buena Walters from Darliston in Westmoreland took home $1 million after being crowned 4-H Female Ambassador of the Year, with a winning project inspired by her mother’s illness.
The Manning’s School student received the award at the 4-H National Achievement Day Expo, held at Denbigh in Clarendon last month.
She told The Beacon that she felt an explosion of excitement when she was announced the winner.
“I was jumping all over the place celebrating,” she added. “I have been admiring this title since I was in grade two… It is the title that every 4-H Clubite wishes to achieve.”
Walters explained that, in preparing for the competition, she was required to create a business idea and a presentation on the history of 4-H in Jamaica.
For her business project, she created a backyard farm that produces organic crops and animals, which essentially are grown without chemicals. They include callaloo, squash and sweet peppers as well as chickens and goats.
The budding farmer grows the crops on a small scale and sells some to community members.
She stated that she was inspired to create an organic farm because of her mother who had to change her diet after being diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2016.
“My mom has stage 4 cancer and her main intake since her diagnosis has been organic food,” Walters told The Beacon.
She noted that organic food can be expensive, and so she wanted to produce enough to sell some to other people whose illness is similar to her mom’s.
Walters’ mother, Annakay McIntosh, is happy that her daughter considered her when doing the project. She is proud of the teen’s overall growth in agriculture, she said.
She further explained that her daughter started farming in 2016 following her diagnosis. That’s after the child discovered that her mother could not source certain organic foods.
“At one point, I could not get any vegetables in the community and so she decided that she is going to plant some vegetables for me… She went and she got some seeds. She started with pop choy and callaloo – and that was our main source of vegetables,” McIntosh added.
She stated that, over the years, Walters had experimented with other crops and animals because she was strongly against her purchasing supplies at the market.
“She wanted to ensure that what I was getting was fully organic,” McIntosh noted.
Walters’ mother told The Beacon that she is happy her daughter’s hard work has paid off, adding that other community members are also ecstatic about her success.
“They saw all the effort that she put out. Sometimes early in the morning she would go out to the little farm to mould what needs to be moulded; sometimes we don’t have any water and she would run the hose and water her stuff,” McIntosh said.
She added: “People always admire my daughter because, by the time she is ready for school, you would never know the level of work she does at home.”
Walters, in the meantime, explained that her journey to winning the Female Ambassador of the Year award was difficult.
She recalled not being successful the first time she entered the competition last year with fellow 4-H Clubite, Kriston Chambers, who won the award in the male category at the time.
“We entered the competition last year to win together as best friends. When Kriston won and I lost, I was a bit disappointed, but I knew I would come back better this year,” Walters commented.
She is no stranger to the 4-H national stage.
When she was in grade two at Enfield Primary School, she was crowned the winner of the club’s recitation competition. She, over the years, also participated in a number of other 4-H competitions such as rabbit care and management, public speaking, and cattle judging.
Walters is also the national president of the Junior Leaders’ League, a voluntary arm of the Jamaica 4-H Club through which she serves as a youth mentor island-wide.
She also does a number of voluntary activities. In observation of Read Across Jamaica Day this year, for example, Walters read for students at Barneyside Primary and Infant School and also gifted the institution a pair of rabbits for its 4-H Club.
In relation to her latest feat, Walters, an aspiring veterinarian, explained that she will use a percentage of her cash award to expand her farm. The remainder, she said, will go towards her pursuit of a degree in Animal Biology at the University of the West Indies in Mona, starting September.
As the reigning 4-H female ambassador, Walters will operate as the face of Jamaica’s 4-H clubs, which are aimed at empowering youth in agriculture and related areas.
Leader of the 4-H Club at Manning’s School, Sharna-Gay Brown-Davis, told The Beacon that she is happy about Walter’s win.
“I have been working with her for years now and she has been working hard and standing out as it relates to 4-H. Walter’s drive is something to reckon with,” she explained.
Brown-Davis added that Walter’s win was a huge success for the school and by extension the parish as she is the first female to win the award for Westmoreland since 2015.
“It is something big,” added Brown-Davis. “I think her victory will allow more students to be motivated to join the 4-H Club.”
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