Michael Wants Markets for Farmers: Avoiding the Death of Agriculture
Michael hails from the community of Desruisseaux and has been in the farming industry for about 25 years. He first started working with his dad who was a successful farmer before him After dappling in a few other career ideas, he opted to stay within the vegetable farming industry as a way of helping to eradicate poverty, increase food production and enhance food security for the people of Saint Lucia. He laments the lack of adequate support for farmers starting at the highest level that cripple their ability to push agricultural growth to meet the food and other needs of the people. Michael encourages the younger generation to embrace agriculture and try to develop innovative and long-lasting sustainable ways that can reduce poverty and scale up farming activities. I challenged Michael to answer 47 zippy questions.
D: Good evening, Michael I want to thank you for agreeing to speak with me and answer my questions.
M: Hello and thank you for having me. Let’s do it.
D: [Smiles]. Wonderful…Your first question is how excited are you about life right now?
M: I love that I am able to wake up each morning and have the breath of life to see another day… I can breathe, I am healthy, I am able to give God thanks and praise and start taking action to get closer to my dreams.
D: What is your biggest weakness?
M: My biggest weakness in life is working hard and not always reaping the results of the work I am doing because some people do not respect or regard my work as farmer.
D: What is something no one tells you about farming?
M: Farming is intense. You have to prepare the soil for planting, spray, weed and prep the soil, prepare the plants, transfer the seedlings to the soil, care for the plants until they are ready for harvesting. Even after you have harvested the crops, you still have to take it to a market to be sold, for example, supermarket, individuals and much more, you need to take care of these vegetables until you hand them over.
D: What is your biggest strength?
M: My biggest strength is the encouragement and support I receive from family and friends in my positive endeavors. The assurance, good thoughts and prayers are a strength for me.
D: What is a cause that is important to you?
M: To be honest I would love to see more young persons in agriculture using technological innovations or improvements, especially in crop production and taking it further to create value added .products. I am willing to give advice and strength, to work with them, to show them the skills of farming. Rather than sitting on the block, I would challenge them to do something positive with their lives and I would make the time to offer my assistance to see that they move forward.
D: When are you the most inspired?
M: When I am working, I focus on what I am doing, I want to do whatever I am doing to the best of my ability. I want the feedback I receive to be positive. Also, I plan in my mind what I want to do, and how I want to do it. When I am resting during the day or in the night, I always reflect, plan and prepare.
D: Sweet or savoury?
M: Both. We need both but I am leaning towards savory and sour because too much sweet can result in diabetes and other ailments.
D: What song can you listen to on repeat?
M: Any gospel music does it for me.
D: What makes you smile the most?
M: Whenever I see or think of my daughter, family and other loved ones I smile [smiling].
D: What is one thing people don’t know about you?
M: My weaknesses within which stays hidden. What you see on the surface is not always what is every single time.
D: What are three things you can’t live without?
M: God, my family and money.
D: Leather or lace?
D: What is the most adventurous thing you have done in your life?
M: Having my children has been the most adventurous thing I have done to date as they make me happy, they give me life. When I reflect on certain things I could do, I consider my children before doing them.
D: How would you define yourself in 3 words?
M: Loving, trustworthy and respectful.
D: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
M: Do good to others and good will follow you.
D: What is your pet peeve?
M: Communication or lack of it. When I am trying to communicate with someone and I am not getting through to the person whether in understanding or even given all the breakthroughs in technology that allow communication to be more instantly connected. I feel irritated.
D: What is one thing you wish people understood?
M: Who they are.
D: What is your biggest regret?
M: Any mistake that I feel I have made.
D: How do you start your day?
M: Thanking God for waking up to see a new day and having the breath of life is the first thing I do each day.
D: What is the one thing you wish you knew at age 19?
M: Knowing when I will die.
D: What is the one talent you wish you had?
M: Playing the bass guitar because every time I hear someone play it, I think it is amazing and wish I could play like that.
D: What is something you still want to be doing in 10 years?
M: Expanding my vegetable farming business to be able to supply all my customers everytime.
D: What is the best thing that happened for you this year?
M: Reuniting and getting closer to my family.
D: What is one thing you had to learn the hard way?
M: To trust people.
D: Coffee or tea?
D: What is one thing you are tired of?
M: (You have some questions eh). The way we treat each other in society. We all are one and no matter how big or small we feel we are, we all still have to eat, use various facilities, go to the supermarkets and so on. So we need to treat each other well, no matter who you may think that person is.
D: What is a trend you would like to see disappear forever?
M: My past.
D: What is the biggest learning experience you have had?
M: Oh gosh, I would say it is to love the people that love and care for you, the people who support you and help you to feed yourself and take care of your other needs.
D: Diamonds or pearls?
D: What makes you feel accomplished?
M: The positive things people and say and do about me and my work.
D: Favourite food?
M: Dumpling, pigtail and lentils.
D: Favourite snack?
M: Ice cream.
D: What is a super power you wish you had?
M: Controlling my breath of life so that I can prevent myself from dying
D: What is your favourite colour?
D: What is something you would like to see happen for our farmers where they feel better supported?
M: I would like to see farmers educating themselves more about farming and practicing the right things.
D: What assistance would enhance the farming industry and make farmers feel more empowered to produce?
M: Good markets for farmers where they can produce fruits and vegetable for instance and get reasonable and consistent prices that they can live with and use for food, shelter and other needs and they would not have a challenge with supplying produce that is needed in the society. Currently, farmers do not have markets for everything that they plant. Most of the time when you take the harvested product to sell for example, at a supermarket, you will be told that they already have enough of that product. Trying to sell on the roadside, or in the market, you don’t get the value for the produce you have because people say that it is too expensive and look for cheaper options. The farmers have to spend a lot on fertilizers, seeds and other nourishments without getting discounts on the items. So, if a consumer does not feel like he or she is getting value for money when purchasing the produce, the consumer will leave it, and the farmer has to go back home with the product and keep coming back with it until it is sold or it spoils. Harvested vegetables for example should not be out of refrigerated storage for more than 2 days and many of our farmers don’t normally have the storage ability or capacity. Therefore, it is not a good thing for farmers to transport same veggies for a whole week, they take sun, dust, rain before they get sold. The buyer still has to leave them at home for a few days before preparing them and by that time the veggies are no longer as fresh and the best. A consistent market, where fresh vegetables and fruits can be sold at reasonable prices is the better thing and should be encouraged.
D: What do you think can be done to allow farmers to produce different crops that can be available year-round such as tomatoes?
M: Ministry of Agriculture for example should have incentives, concessions or discounts for registered farmers. There are viruses for instance that affect the crops and sometimes farmers cannot even get the chemicals to treat them so they lose their crop. For example, cucumbers may have a leafspot and the treatment is not always available from the suppliers so farmers lose what they have invested in producing the crop. Farmers will choose more hardy crops that either do not need all these requirements or ones that they can find treatment for readily and easily. Tomatoes can have fungi and mold which need treatment or prevention or even nourishment and salt but not always available so farmers lay low on those. Lettuce and watermelon are more easily treated and more hardy so many farmers engage in producing it.
D: What is the most important thing your mom taught you?
M: To love and be respectful to others.
D: How would you describe your upbringing?
M: Unique because I was taught to do many things as a male, example wash, clean, iron, make bread and so on which I still do today.
D: Who is your role model?
M: My mom who carried me for 9 months and the only way we will part is by death.
D: What gets you out of bed in the morning?
M: There are a number of things but one of them is taking care of my vegetables by a particular time in the early morning.
D: What do you want to be remembered for?
M: The good things that I have done and for my love [smiles]. At least there are always some things that one can do that will have a positive impact on someone else. So, I someone could say, if Michael was there, he would help me do this or that, or I would get my veggies and so on.
D: What is your biggest fear?
M: Not seeing my youngest daughter grow up to be independent and care for herself.
D: Best compliment you have received?
M: Feedback from having made an impact in someone’s life or the society.
D: What is your favourite way to take a rest or decompress?
M: After working, shower, eat and sit down or lie down, dose off or drift to sleep. Your body absorbs certain energy while you are working and you need to rejuvenate and recuperate from it.
D: Any last words for your audience?
M: I would like to encourage the youth to think positive. Put down guns and other weapons. Look out for each other, be each other’s keeper, think positively and engage in activities that will keep them out of trouble.
D: How do you feel now that we are done?
M: I feel happy but just that some of the questions surprised me. Having a clue would have helped me to prepare myself.
D: Thank you so much Michael that is the beauty of asking zippy questions…it allows you to fire your answers in quick succession without too much overthinking (smile). It was interesting and you did great, thank you and we wish you a the best and continued profitable venture.