Denese Williams-Bailey has been working to turn a bad situation into good.

She has taken up farming more seriously since the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) started to hit Jamaica hard.

The 35-year-old, who was trained in accounting and hospitality, worked in some of the major service establishments over the past decade in both Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

Upon returning from Trinidad and Tobago in 2015, she obtained employment at a top food outlet in Kingston.

Two years later, she moved to a similar establishment, and started a relatively small agricultural venture at Kellits in Clarendon to supplement her salary.

When the COVID-19 crisis started to bear down locally in 2020, Williams-Bailey travelled from Portmore in St. Catherine to her childhood town of Kellits to attend to her farm.

She ended up resigning from her job. In doing so, she considered the progress that was being made on her farm, as well as the fact that she was being employed only two days per week.

“I was seeing my way out with my farming more than me working, so I decided to call it quits. I resigned, and just went full-time into the farming,” said Williams-Bailey, who heads Den Den Farm and Supplies in Kellits.

She expanded the farm from producing yellow yam to including other crops and the rearing of chicken.

Williams-Bailey now delivers weekly supplies to a number of food entities in St. Catherine and the Corporate Area. Her company also maintains an active social media page, which resulted in her having clients as far as Portland.

To adequately supply her growing market, the entrepreneur also buys from other farmers.

She recalled that her business almost collapsed when she lost her first batch of chickens due to the malfunctioning of a refrigerator, which she used to cool the birds overnight before delivering them to clients.

“I cried,” she said.

But her husband, who had provided the start-up capital for her to enter into the business, encouraged her to continue.

She stated that, to prevent a repeat of the misfortune, she ‘got up every two hours [in the night] to check the refrigerator’ whenever chickens are packed into it.

“I wanted to make sure that it was freezing because I could not afford to lose another batch,” Williams-Bailey commented.

She noted that her husband’s support in the early days was very important, adding that investing in farming is very risky.

“I told him about me going into farming, and what the start-up cost was going to be. He asked me if I was sure that I wanted to do it, and I told him ‘yes’. He said, ‘OK, I will support you’. He gave me the cash to start, and he has been there with me,” Williams-Bailey said.

She intends to venture into greenhouse farming and exporting her produce.

She also underscored the importance of treating her workers well, adding that her business would fail if she did not have a trustworthy team.

Williams-Bailey stated that, although she supports males in the farming business, she has a ‘soft spot’ for female farmers.

She encouraged more women to take charge of their economic empowerment, and to accept farming as a viable profession.

“We all need to survive, and I feel good that I am helping my family and can help others around me as well,” Williams-Bailey said.

“Don’t look at farming as dirty work; don’t look at it like that. It is very rewarding, and knowing that you are feeding the nation is a good thing.”

Editorial Note: The information in this story was provided by the state-owned Jamaica Information Service.


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By Mills