The joy of farming
by Andre Skeete
What started off as a part-time endeavour for 50-year-old Stephenson Cumberbatch has now become his livelihood; a vocation which brings him much pride and joy.
He is one of the thousands of Barbadians who make a living from farming, toiling daily to ensure consumers can have access to a variety of fresh produce and meats.
Cumberbatch has been a pig farmer for about 30 years, bitten by the agricultural “bug” in the 1980s, after being introduced to it by a friend and colleague.
After deciding to become a full-time farmer in the late 1990s, he has never looked back. The St. Peter resident started off with two pigs and now has over 250 animals.
While Cumberbatch acknowledged that farming can be very difficult, he cannot see himself pursuing any other vocation.
“It can be hard, but once you love it, you are always willing to go for it. When you look at those animals every day and you see them grow and the effort you put into raising them, it is so rewarding,” he said.
One of the major benefits Cumberbatch saw in becoming a small farmer was the opportunity to be his own boss. In addition, the St. Peter resident pointed out that the experience of working in agriculture and the knowledge gained in running a farm was invaluable.
“You watch, learn and grow with it. Farming isn’t something you sit in a classroom and just go and do it. You must have hands-on experience and you learn every day. Sometimes you plan things the day before, but when you arrive the next morning there may be a challenge, but you have to work with it… Every day is a learning experience,” he noted.
The 50-year-old also lent his full support to efforts to encourage Barbadians to buy more locals products, especially crops and livestock. “I think that is the best thing to do. It will help small businesses such as farmers to employ more persons and keep money in the island.”
Cumberbatch, a member of the of Pig Farmer’s Cooperative, gave another plug for local farmers, noting that when Barbadians purchase local agricultural goods they are guaranteed numerous benefits, including meats at competitive prices.
“Buying local means that you can help to support Barbadian farmers. In terms of the goods, the texture and taste of local produce is our best advantage. Our goods are fresh and of a better quality,” he stressed.
While acknowledging that it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain competitive prices in the face of rising feed and input costs, he said many small local farmers were doing their best to keep costs down.
It has also meant making some adjustments to their way of farming.
“For one, you must have a budget and two, it is the way you raise your animals. If you put in, you will get out. Right now you are not getting as much. Since the feed hike, it is digging a bit into our income. You have to find other ways and means of trying to keep it up,” the farmer said.
While Cumberbatch acknowledged that it has not been “all smooth sailing”, his love for, and dedication to, agriculture are quite evident.
For those Barbadians who are thinking about venturing into the sector, he had this simple message:
“You must have a love for what you do. Be willing to work hard and understand that sometimes you will be discouraged and tired because the hours are long but it will be rewarding in the end.”