But crisis conditions have a way of generating change. And across the region, there is a growing movement of dynamic young agricultural entrepreneurs who are not only succeeding in farming, but influencing their peers to get involved as well. Regional stakeholders have also been involved in identifying emerging agribusiness leaders and helping them expand their reach, in order to attract more youth to the sector.
All of a sudden Caribbean agribusiness looks more attractive and not so outdated.
said Carla Barnett, Secretary General of the CARICOM Secretariat at the launch of “I Am Agriculture: Youth in Agriculture,” a CARICOM social media campaign developed with support from the United Nations World Food Programme.
Sean Bo, director of the Agriculture and Agro-Industry Development Program at the CARICOM Secretariat, says of the push to reduce food imports from outside the region and cut the Caribbean’s $5 billion food import bill by 25% by 2025.
“Our young agripreneurs from CARICOM have demonstrated their commitment to transforming the agri-food system by infusing technology and digitization to improve production, productivity and trade. Ideally, making agriculture sustainable, efficient, profitable and attractive.”
The new generation of Caribbean farmers are witty, elegant, technical and under the age of thirty-five. Goodbye grandpa in overalls! Here are five farmers from the Caribbean who are pushing back against the traditional image of farming.
Tony Ann Lalor: Jamaica
“I am a farmer; at heart, I am a woman,” agripreneur, actress, model, educator, and philanthropist Toni Ann Lalor recently read to her 48.1k Instagram followers.
Lalor, who is best known as the “Farm Queen” in Jamaica, received this title in 2019, when she was 24 years old, when she competed in the Miss Jamaica World Pageant, where she was awarded the “Beauty with a Purpose” award.
As owner and operator of Toni’s Fresh Produce, Lalor frequently posts photos of the colorful fruits and vegetables—sweet potatoes, carrots, watermelon, pumpkin, yams, bell peppers, tomatoes, and cantaloupe—that she grows herself.
Lalor is an advocate for the economic potential of farming, particularly among young people, and is living proof that farming is not a job for the old or uneducated. Conversely, Lalor was able to pay for her studies towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree with the earnings of her farm.
In 2022, Lalor competed against 53 other contestants and won the Miss UN World title in India. Its program was food sovereignty and hunger reduction.
Of her win, Lalor told The Jamaica Observer, “This fits perfectly with my larger plan to rebrand agriculture to attract young people. We need to start this conversation to make it more attractive by looking at issues of food security, innovation and technology.”
She has never ignored that she is a farmer,” said Jamaica’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pernell Charles Jr. “She said to the world, ‘Look how beautiful a farmer can be’ and that meant a lot to me, her daughter and other young people looking up.”
Jon Jones: Barbados
“Over 25 different crops I would gift to anyone who wants to grow here in Barbados. Let’s grow together,” he recently read. tweet From farmer Jon Jones, whose picture as an adorable seed library has garnered nearly 700 likes from his rapidly growing fan base.
The 30-year-old manager of Thirteen Acre Farms Ltd has become a popular Bajan celebrity since acquiring his own farm 18 months ago, and wants to lower his country’s food import bill by growing crops like cauliflower, which Barbados imports exclusively. He also hopes to open farms across the Caribbean to support the Area 25 initiative by 2025.
A well-travelled former college basketball star, Jones, who graduated from Illinois State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agribusiness, wants to promote engagement and participation in local food production in Barbados. For more than a year, he has been giving practical farming training to both children and adults.
“Teaching my people how to farm and sharing my knowledge has always been important to me,” he says. “Let’s all grow together.”
Alpha Sinon: Trinidad and Tobago
Alpha Sennon, a 35-year-old ‘farmer’ and agribusiness graduate from the University of the West Indies, is a farmer and social entrepreneur on a mission to inspire the youth of the region to get interested in farming.
As Founder and CEO of an award-winning NGO, WHYFARM, Sennon wants to “contribute to achieving food and nutrition security through innovation, creativity, and agri-entrepreneurship.”
In line with this mission, Sinon created the world’s first and only food and nutrition security superheroes: “AGRIman” and “Photosynthesista”, the two heroes of the AGRIMAN AGventures comic book series that has been sold throughout the Caribbean.
Sennon and WHYFARM have received support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Kirchner Impact Foundation, Thought For Food Foundation, and Digicel.
In 2022, Sinon joined the NEXT 50 class, as one of the world’s top 50 leading activists, and was named one of the world’s leading social entrepreneurs and thought leaders by Ashoka, for which he was awarded the first-ever Ashoka Fellowship in Trinidad and Tobago for Social Communication leading businesses.
Tisha Mangra Singh, Guyana
Twenty-seven-year-old Teesha-Mangra Singh from Guyana is the CEO of President Dr. Irfan Ali’s Agriculture and Innovation Entrepreneurship Program (AIEP), which offers agricultural entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 35 the opportunity to grow and sell a variety of value crops. High on government-built climate-smart shade homes. The programme, launched in January 2022, is a key component of the government’s agribusiness strategy.
Mangra Singh, who holds a Diploma in Agriculture from the Guyana College of Agriculture and a Bachelor’s degree in Agriculture from the University of Guyana, recalls that at first, people tried to dissuade her from engaging in the male-dominated industry, but her love for nature, animals and farming would pay off. She now dedicates her time to encouraging other women and youth to join the fast growing agricultural sector and was recently a speaker at the Guyana Women and Youth Agriculture Symposium.
“We need youth in agriculture because they are the biggest contributor to our society, and we need food to bring us closer to security,” Mangra Singh told local news provider, Guyana Times. “Our entire farm is climate-smart, and we use innovative practices because we understand that younger people are more inclined to handle technology, and they are more likely to work with innovative practices as opposed to traditional farming, where you have to get out in the sun.”
Anastasha Elliot: Saint Kitts and Nevis
Anastasha Elliott is an agro-entrepreneur adding value to her country’s indigenous botanical and organic ingredients through her business, Sugar Town Organics.
Sugar Town Organics is a health and wellness company founded by Elliot in 2004, specializing in ethical products made with natural ingredients typically sourced from her garden, nearby mountains, or an organic herb farm in her community.
Sugar Town Organics’ cosmetic brands Yaphene and Marapa skincare “Caribbean Soaked Food” carry botanical skin, hair, and body care products inspired by traditional beauty practices, herbal remedies, food, and Caribbean culture, while Baba Lullaby is Sugar Town Organics’ skin care line. With normal baby skin.
Flauriel, Elliott’s food and beverage brand, features handcrafted wines, spices, snacks, and more that utilize traditional Caribbean products and practices. Flauriel Soursop Jelly, for example, is made with fresh juice from soursop harvested straight from Elliott’s garden.
Elliot is passionate about the role natural remedies can support in maintaining good health and well-being – and she’s just as passionate about entrepreneurship.
Youth agripreneurship in the Caribbean is the region’s best bet for a more resilient future – particularly in the context of climate change, cost of living and supply chain challenges the world has faced since 2020.
Conventional rules of farming do not take into account the new realities associated with climate change, such as unpredictable weather patterns, extended droughts, and an increased frequency of extreme weather events. An aging, aging workforce and manual operations may not be able to quickly adapt to rapidly changing global conditions.
“We need to look at the solutions that young people have to offer. We need to listen to young people and identify some solutions. Now, more than ever, young people need to be part of the solution to the various challenges we’ve been discussing,” says Regis Chapman, Representative and Country Director in WFP’s multi-country office for the Anglophone and Dutch-speaking Caribbean.
Youth participation in agriculture is critical to achieving inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work (SDG 8 of the United Nations). Agriculture also offers a pathway to youth empowerment, poverty reduction, and food and nutrition security. It’s time for a new, young energy to revitalize a sector that currently only meets 20% of the region’s food demand – for a true entrepreneur this presents an opportunity.