The foundation for many local farmers today stemmed from the interest their parents or grandparents had in farming and this is so for Shirley Ramsey in the Bolans area, who grew up with her grandfather who was a farmer in New Winthorpes.
Ms. Ramsey explained that while growing up, she had always tried to divert to a different field but somehow she always ended up doing farming which she has stuck to up to this day.
She recalled that when she was growing up on the farm, she would learn to operate the tractor and always had to help out around the farm so doing it now on a professional basis, only comes natural to her.
Ms. Ramsey now has a 3-acre plot of land; (two) 2 acres on the hillside, which she does not farm during the dry season and the lower area, which is (one) 1 acre where she grows a variety of exotic fruits, herbs and mainly starchy vegetables.
The current COVID-19 Pandemic has resulted in many persons getting into the field of agriculture and Ms. Ramsey thinks that it has brought reality into effect for many persons.
“People have had to learn to deal with their children, people have to cope with their environment and you have to plant food for you to eat because you don’t have money.” Stated Ms. Ramey.
Ms. Ramsey is a firm believer in educating persons about the importance and benefits of agriculture and the use of local natural resources.
Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus, there has been a debate on whether or not Antigua and Barbuda should shift its main industry from tourism to agriculture.
Ms. Ramsey thinks that they can both work hand in hand.
“Agriculture and tourism; I think they both go hand in hand, as it will be much more profitable for us because when you are speaking to these people (tourists/visitors) and you carry them to these places and you show them what we have here and what we produce, they get so excited.”
She thinks that farmers can also benefit greatly by incorporating tourism- related activities on their farms by even altering the design of their farms to accommodate tours and it would be two businesses providing two sources of income.
Ms. Ramsey expressed the importance of being innovative in utilizing various fruits and crops to avoid wasting the products.
“In Antigua much of what we have is wasted and we can utilize these by exporting regionally and internationally, as a lot of what is grown in Antigua cannot be grown in other Caribbean countries and abroad.”
In terms of ways in which the agriculture industry can be further enhanced, Ms. Ramsey said that she hopes to see the return of more agricultural exhibitions to educate the public on the history of the agriculture sector and how it can be further strengthened based on the strong foundation that agricultural stalwarts have put in place.