Former janitor now enjoys planting veggies

Not a day goes by without Louise Lawrence giving her crops a warm greeting before tending to them at her greenhouse in Watt Town, St Ann. Conversing with the plants, she believes, will help them to produce in abundance. “I tell them 'Good morning and how are you? I am here today to attend to you. I want the best from you and I want you to produce a lot for me because I need the money,” a cheerful Lawrence told.

The 60-year-old began her greenhouse farming journey six years ago when it was introduced to her community, as she was unemployed. Watt Town was one of three St Ann communities which benefited from the Jamaica Social Investment Fund and Jamaica Bauxite Institute Water Harvesting Cluster Greenhouse Project in 2015.

Twenty greenhouses were built in the community on lands provided by the Noranda Bauxite Company and are operated by 20 farmers — 11 women and nine men. “I went to the council meeting at Noranda and I was told about a greenhouse technology program. I started to attend the classes and everything started from there,” she added.

Lawrence plants sweet peppers, tomatoes, cauliflower and broccoli on her farm and has high hopes of growing celery and kale. At times, she said she feels a bit discouraged when doing her job but refuses to give up as she is seen as an inspiration to her other colleagues. Somebody said to me the other day, 'You're a strong person, you're a community person, and if you should leave the farm the rest of farmers are going to follow.” If I give up, they are going to give up so that gives me the push to continue, knowing that they are really relying on me as a role model,” said Lawrence.

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