There is money in the dirt

Three generations of farmers on Forbes Farm after stopping for a quick photo break after a long day’s work.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Amein Burrows, 33, who worked as a landscaper for the better part of his adult life never imagine becoming a career farmer, but after more than a year in the sector, sowing seeds and tending to livestock, the owner of Forbes Farm Fresh Organic Fruits and Livestock says he has reaped more than a harvest.

Speaking to Eyewitness News Online from his farm, a family-owned business, off Cowpen Road, Burrows shares both the struggles and rewards of being a farmer in a country where the career appears to have lost much of its appeal in recent years.

“There’s different things you can do rather than just being a carpenter,” Burrows said.

“Once they realize farming could make them more money than these things they push because it came from us.

“Right now, the young fellows aren’t interested because they don’t see the value in it, but if someone actually showed them the value of farming and what they could make, [I think] they’d change their mindset.

“The money’s in the dirt”.

He continued, “With farming, you got to have stickability.

“It gets boring out here. I ain’t going to tell no lie, this is the wilderness.

“But, I still call this my happy place.”

When Burrows was a teenager, he never thought he would become a farmer: it sounded too archaic.

Although The Bahamas has a long-standing history in the farming industry, a lack of consistent promotion has created less awareness about the sector to the public, according to Burrows.

For most people, the word ‘farmer’ arouses memories of a dress up character played while a child.

Burrows opined that many people choose to go to school and become lawyers or doctors or work in an office building, as it seems like a more “politically correct” profession.

Businessman Farrah Gray once said “Build your own dreams, or someone else will hire you to build theirs.”

Research conducted by the University of Scranton proved that 92 percent of people in this lifetime do not achieve their life dreams, and thus, do not ever become truly happy with themselves.

However, the eight percent of people who chose to do what makes them happy, regardless of what society thinks of them, are the ones who achieve success.

Burrows could be considered part of that eight percent.

When he left his job in landscaping late last year, he was initially skeptical about joining his grandfather’s farm and becoming a part of his family’s legacy.

He witnessed how hard his grandfather worked when he was younger, and had to decide for himself if this was a field he wanted to invest in.

At the time, he knew he wasn’t fulfilled at his job, he recalled.

Having been incarcerated in the past, he was aware of the challenges he would face, similar to those of many men across the country who have done time at the Department of Correctional Services.

He said he felt confused and lost, but having an obstacle does not block one’s path — it becomes their path.

The farm was in a state of disrepair following the passage of Hurricane Matthew in October 2016, and largely remains that way.

Burrows said he, like many other farmers, need assistance, but noted that it has been in short supply.

While the task seemed impossible at first, Burrows has been able to expand the banana field, which was previously devastated by Matthew.

He has since been able to purchase a number of pigs.

Reflecting on the farm before Matthew struck, Burrows said, “Just riding down Cowpen road, I realized this is one of the most developed farms here.

“We had a chicken pen that had more than 2,000 chickens. We had about 100 pigs. So, this is something that I am not trying to let die.”

But, working on a farm is more than just the image of a man in a straw hat, overalls and bare feet running around wildly after chickens.

To successfully manage a farm requires patience and true passion, as pointed out by Burrows, who admitted that the operating the 7.5-acre facility can be frustrating and daunting as he has employees who depend on the farm’s success.

“I have three workers in the back doing work,” he explained.

“Who ain’t picking, they’re trying to clean up. Just through the rain, you can’t keep up on it [the bush] and then its expensive. You have to pay people to clean it.”

And taking care of the livestock also requires a lot work. Something, according to Amein, a lot of young men he’s thought of hiring aren’t too fond of.

 Security is another major component, Burrows said.

“Some farmers that don’t produce as much as you send people on your farm to [steal] your stuff,” he said.

“You know how much times I came on this farm and met [people] on the farm thieving? I’d be sitting down eating my breakfast and I hear voices. But it’s only me one. So, the only thing I could do is pick up [a] big rock, throw it in the area and stay low.”

With every business, risk is a necessity. But having a farm complicates the risk even further.

As of early 2018, there were approximately 1,500 registered farmers in The Bahamas.

Of that figure, around 200 operate in The Bahamas, according to officials.

Burrows indicated that domestic farmers often struggle to obtain financial aid or subventions from the government.

As a result, a number of farmers are forced to come up with other ways to make money to keep their farms operating.

Burrows noted that this can possess a strain on limited resources.

In February 2018, then Minister of Agriculture and Marine Resources Renward Wells said the government provide farmers with seeds, fertilizer, feed, land and a $9,000 subsidy for produce.

“It’s tough,” he said.

“I have to pay my workers and whatever I end up with, I try to weigh if I’m going to buy feed for my dogs or feed for the animals. It’s hard.”

For Burrows, its vital that he post his products on social media platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram.

However, there are good day when Burrows makes $1,000 from in-person sales.

“Someone would pull up here and say ‘How much do you want for this coconut tree?’ And just for me to dig it out and transport it, that’s funds.”

In an economy where many Bahamians live in challenged conditions, with more than 40,000 people well below the poverty, Burrows acknowledges each sale as a blessing.

 Burrows said making a living in farming is feasible, however, he stressed that there is a greater need to education Bahamians, young people in particular, about the industry.

“I would’ve never seen myself doing farming,” Amein said, reflecting on how far he’s come.

“But now, you can call me the farmer.”

This article was written by Marechan Burrows – Eyewitness News Intern.