Danielle, Explore Enterprise
Danielle is new to commercial farming, but our Explore Enterprise programme has helped her to build up her business. At peak times such as harvest, she already employs up to seven seasonal workers.
As Danielle (29) sows the seeds for her next crop of scotch bonnet peppers, she already knows exactly where her harvest will sell, and the price it will sell for. This gives her farm the security it needs to thrive and grow.
Danielle launched her family farm in southern Jamaica two years ago. Although she herself had a secure corporate job, she wanted to reduce the burden on her aging parents, whose own small business wasn’t making a profit.
‘They were having a really rough time, they hated every moment of it,’ Danielle explains. ‘Back then, we used to do backyard farming at home. Then I said to my parents, let’s do commercial farming. Let’s not just feed our family, let’s feed the community, feed the nation.’
But although Danielle and her parents were already experienced gardeners, they had no knowledge of commercial farming.
‘This was my first real business venture. I had an idea of what I wanted to do but I needed some technical knowhow about marketing and finance and things like that,’ Danielle recalls. ‘I needed a guide for how to run an agricultural business.’
The Explore Enterprise programme has given Danielle a framework to follow as she expands her farm, giving her the confidence to make decisions about what to do when. She says that the most valuable advice has been to make sure that she has a guaranteed market for her produce before sowing a single seed.
‘This year, I had a sales contract signed before we even planted,’ Danielle recalls. Her farm sells primarily to a large wholesaler, along with some smaller local shops.
Explore Enterprise aims to support young entrepreneurs, whatever stage they are at, to launch and grow a successful business. It is run by Jamaica Youth Business Trust (JYBT), with support from Prince’s Trust International.
‘The average age of farmers in Jamaica is around 55,’ explains Tanesha Patterson from JYBT. ‘It’s really important to attract young people into farming, but if they don’t ensure they have a market before they start, they’ll have no one to sell to.’
Pride and peace
Danielle’s farm, Jjireh, now covers five acres over two sites, and she expects to at least double in size over the next five years. At peak times like harvest, she and her parents already employ up to seven seasonal workers.
Becoming an employer is something that Danielle feels particularly proud of. ‘I’m happy because when someone works hard and you pay them and they say thank you, it’s a good feeling,’ she says. ‘It makes me feel proud to be able to provide for another family.’
Danielle’s farm has only been operating for two years. It is already turning a profit, but hasn’t yet significantly increased their family income. However, Danielle explains that their future financial prospects, and current quality of life, are both much improved.
‘We’re still in the start-up phase at the moment, but the prospects are much better’ she explains. ’We’ll reap the rewards in one or two years. But even outside of the financial aspect, now there’s so much less stress. My parents sleep better and mentally I see a level of contentment. I prefer that over any monetary value. Working with plants, working in the fields, it’s hard work but it’s satisfying. It’s peaceful.’