Wahid Ogeer, the farmer who created the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion will be teaching interested farmers and gardeners free of charge how to grow his fiery, taste buds-searing pepper at The Caroni Central Farmers' Market at Preysal Secondary School on February 27. He said he can also show farmers how they can maximise their crop production using limited land space.
The Caroni Central Farmers' Market, MP for Caroni Central Dr Bhoendradatt Tewarie said, was really set up to encourage the people of his constituency to not only be good farmers and produce good quality crops, but to be able to make a living out of it.
Tewarie said at the first farmers' market (a smaller but similar concept to the San Antonio Green Market, Santa Cruz) in January, there were a few farmers and a lot more people involved in the making of preserves and specialty items such as pickled smoke herring and pickled buljol, as well as a very diverse offerings from jewellers, artists and artisans.
The UNC MP said he also wanted to encourage other enterprising people in the community to use their entrepreneurial initiative and take advantage of the commercial opportunity every month in the constituency.
The plan, developed by Tewarie and Miranda Roopchan, field officer for his constituency, is to have the market on a monthly basis as it grows from strength to strength. Tewarie is also encouraging and supporting the initiatives of people like Ogeer who wants to help others succeed.
Ogeer, who is the president of the Practical Agricultural Training Institute of T&T and president of the Confederation of Farmers' Association of T&T, and who operates a 25-acre farm at Chickland Caparo Road in Freeport, said he was willing to share his knowledge to help others earn and to grow the country's food stock, especially in this period of recession and the need to diversify from oil and gas.
Ogeer, 68, a self-taught farmer for decades, said he uses his high-yield production method to grow other crops such as corn, eddoes, yams, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and ginger.
He said his vision was for his farm to be a teaching institute, but it required an access road, water and electricity.
"I could produce a minimum of 40,000 pounds of food from one acre of land in one year," Ogeer said.
"And that is if the farmer has an irrigation system and if the fertility of the soil is 50 per cent and above, any kind of plant, anywhere, anyhow...I will be able to do it and also with a minimum of chemicals.
"I will be able to teach farmers through an agricultural institute which will be easier, home gardening, root crop farming. Planting more trees and vegetables all contribute to combat global warming."
Ogeer suggested a system where farmers could be contracted by Government or private investors to produce 40,000 pounds of food crops so that they will have money guaranteed at the end of the year.
He said farmers can be given $1.50 a pound on their produce and a back pay of 50 cents, they will have $80,000 from one acre of land, and expenses will be approximately $20,000.
Ogeer said they were aiming for the export market since the country produced the highest quality of food in the world. He said downstream industries making preserves will benefit as well as children in the school feeding programme. Ogeer said VAT should be removed on food for people to afford nutritious food.
Lashley: An opportunityto sell surplus produceand cut out middleman
Barbara Lashley and her husband, Ruthven, have approximately 1,000 fruit trees on 15 acres of their land at Pipecon Road, Carlsen Field.
Besides the regular produce most people are accustomed to in the market, there are several rare and exotic species of fruit and trees to be found.
Some are mamisipote, date palm, kola nut, wax apple, long and short pois doux, penny piece, Jamaican plum trees, Chinese tamarind tree, mahogany and cedar trees, yellow and white poui trees, and even an apple tree.
Lashley said they managed to educate their four children and send each one to university via agriculture.
For the 26 years she has been on her farm, every corner on her parcel of land has fruit trees, and the ground space in between short crops have been planted for maximum yield.
Lashley, who took part in the first Caroni Central Farmers Market in January 30, is encouraging farmers, entrepreneurs and small backyard gardeners who have a surplus of produce to take part in the next market so they can gain experience and share knowledge with one another.
She said the farmers' market was a very good idea since it cut out the middleman and many people came looking for more products.
Lashley said farmers needed modest incentives from the Government such as proper irrigation, ponds, riding mowers, lights and paved roads.
She said nothing was wasted, "turned cassava" was sold to the Sugar Cane Feeds Centre in Longdenville to feed livestock.
Lashley said she didn't sell in the market, she gave someone to sell for her and sold her produce house to house.
She said if she didn't get the price she was calling for, she would reduce it and come home with her trunk empty.
Lashley said she also donated her produce to Living Waters and does community work with the underprivileged who needed clothes or shoes.
Patrick: Make agriculture
more attractive to youths
Keith Patrick, Lashley's son-in-law, whose banana crops have been affected by the black Sigatoka disease, said while there had been foreign help and expertise in St Lucia and other Caribbean countries to reestablish their banana plantations, there was no such help in T&T that he knew of to aid farmers to combat the disease.
He said labour was also a challenge; there was a desperate need to get young people to view agriculture as something viable.
Patrick said unfortunately agriculture was not marketed as being attractive compared to the medical and legal professions.
He said it must be inculcated from school level with programmes such as 4-H.
Patrick said in terms of machinery, there should be a sliding scale so that all farmers can benefit from machinery such as tractors, equipment and vehicles and not just larger scale farmers.
Patrick also suggested that to make a portion of land available to students who want to study agriculture at university.
Rampersad: Govt should
act as farmers' middleman
Madan and Polly Rampersad get up at 3 am on weekends at their Mc Nair Estate, Cunupia farm to reach the San Juan Market in time to set up their stall before 5 am. If they don't, they will lose sales as customers come out at that time.
Rampersad said when the market was under renovation, they were given permission to vend on the road and when completed they could return to sell in the facility. Rampersad said newcomers were accommodated in the renovated market before them and they were now selling from two empty lots of land near the market.
If rain hampered sales, Rampersad will give away any excess produce or shared it instead of throwing it away.
He said vendors should be allowed to sell on the road up to 2 pm if they caused no inconvenience and traffic.
He said authorities can also facilitate vendors selling on the market compound and Government should act like the middleman and buy farmers' produce.
Rampersad said the most important thing was to have a market for farmers' produce and more people would want to go into farming.