What a man sows . . .
Farming tradition alive and well at Springfield, St Lucy
From the crack of dawn each day, Medford and Eudene Edghill are up and about.
The husband and wife team, both of whom are in their mid-seventies, currently manages a 15-acre farm on the Springfield Land Lease Project, which engages their attention from as early as 5 a.m. to midnight.
And so it was again today, even as the world community paused to celebrate their contribution, as well as that of millions more who are engaged globally in family farming.
However, for the Edgehills, who have been operating on the Springfield project for the past 32 years, it was just a regular day on the farm.
When our team arrived just around 11 a.m., Medford had just emerged from the field, with his hands totally covered in mud, to collect what looked to be his lunch snack from a passing food vendor.
In typical country style, he stopped to welcome his visitors but soon after learning that it was the media, he handed over the microphone to his spokesman Eudene.
She explained that farming has been their life.
The couple has been operating at Springhall for the past 32 years,
where their focus has been on their farm and sowing the seeds that are necessary for their survival.
“At present, we have okras, beans, cucumbers, green peas, as well as increase peas, corn and sweet potatoes,” said Eudene, the more outspoken of the two.
The couple has five children but only four, including their only daughter, have taken to farming.
One son operates his own business.
Without a doubt, they love what they do, even though the life of a farmer is not at all easy.
Eudene, who was decked out for her daily work in the sun, told Barbados TODAY there were also lingering problems such as access to finance, not to mention the occasional petty thief, whose only intention was to reap the benefits of someone else’s hard labour.
Admittedly though, praedial larcency is currently not a big issue for them.
“People may pass and pick some peas, but not in large quantities,” said Edghill.
A much bigger headache is access to financing.
“We do not have any transportation to take the produce to a market so ‘middle men’ come to our farm and buy the produce,” she explained.
Acknowledging the important role rainfall plays in the cultivation of food crops, the elderly farmer also pointed out that the extended dry season in the earlier part of the year would have prevented farmers from planting any crops.
Meanwhile, Trevor Gaskin, who has been farming at Springfield for almost as long as the Edghills had seven “farm hands” assisting him on his 13-acre plot today.
His choice of crops for cultivation at this time are “cucumbers, sweet peppers, tomatoes and watermelons,” which he does not sell directly to supermarkets.
“I deliver my produce to a company called Leslie’s Meat and Veg and they will distribute them to supermarkets, mini-marts, hotels restaurants and anyone who needs the produce at a wholesale price,” explained Gaskin, who said he did not have any problems in finding a market for his produce.
“Sometimes when the market is slow, you have to accept a loss of a couple hundred pounds of a produce.”
Presently though he said the market was good for sweet peppers and tomatoes, but not for cucumbers.
“It would be good for melons, but challenges arise at this time of the year with the rain and the heat,” the experienced farmer said.
Asked if the dry weather would have affected cultivation earlier in the year, the farmer said: “It affected farmers to some extent. However, we were quite lucky because the rainfall last year was not too bad and we were able to make it through the dry season without any water rationing.
“At present we are getting a little too much [rain] but I am not complaining because if we do not get the rain now, we would suffer the consequences next year when the dry season comes again.”
While Gaskin would encourage young people to take up agriculture as a profession, he was critical of a Government minister who had stated that agriculture was dying.
“We in Barbados are still suffering from the plantation stigma. The younger people are not being shown the relevance of agriculture and therefore we are having a constant shortage of agricultural labour. We cannot get the labourers when we want them and when we get them, they are not productive,” he lamented.
Gaskin said he does not suffer from praedial larceny but pointed
out that farms located near to the roadside suffered the most loss, since thieves like to “move in quickly” and get away with the produce.