A twenty seven-year-old national in the Cayon area, who started farming as a hobby while still in school, is today one of the most successfully farmers in the country and is commending the Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP) for the contributory role it plays in the nation’s food security.
“I see farming like a business because sometimes we look down on farming, and we should not because it is food security – it is very important,” says Travis Huggins, owner of Bountiful Harvest Farm of Cayon. “We have tourism, we have this, we have that, but if we do not feed ourselves – we do not feed our country – the budget is going up as the food bill is going up and it is not good for our country because St. Kitts is blessed with fertile lands.”
The Department of Agriculture had seen the potential in the young Huggins while he was still in school when he used to work on a small piece of land growing okra and other food crops. The department gave him three acres for him to grow more food crops. Some friends he had in Trinidad who are into farming invited him and he says the visit was like a training course
Huggins was good in Agriculture Science in school, but when he left school he briefly worked for different companies in various capacities “but I was never happy, and I believe you should do what you love to do. So I decided to get into farming fulltime.”
He was at the time working on a seven acre plot of land and the big break for him was when he approached the Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP) with the aim of sourcing trainees enrolled on the programme, because he felt that he needed not only to increase food production but to also train others to be good farmers. Today, Bountiful Harvest Farm has another fifteen acres of land in the same locality.
“This was a very good opportunity because STEP was paying them, which was very helpful for me, not only you have workers where you do not have to pay, but you have young people that you could teach things,” Huggins said. “While they are here, I pass on the knowledge because most of them came and they only wanted a paycheque, but I spoke to them and let them know my background and look at where it has gotten me.”
Huggins’ teaching has not fallen by the way side or on rocks because the six STEP workers he has have shown a great interest in farming, and are even ready to work extra hours alongside his two employees. He goes the extra mile – the workers receive overtime pay for hours they put in outside the normal work hours as they sometime work into the night and on Saturdays and Sundays as well.
“The STEP is doing a wonderful job when it comes to food security by sending their trainees to work with the farmers,” Huggins said. “This is something great as sometimes we look down on farmers because we do not realise the importance of food security in our country, but every time that boat comes from Dominica or St. Vincent or the food that come from Miami, it is carrying up our food import bill yet we have good fertile land.”
While thanking STEP’s Field Coordinator William Phillip for taking a personal interest in what is going on with the farmers, Huggins says, “I am very thankful for the STEP to choose farmers who are ordinary citizens of this country and give them STEP trainees to work because they are learning everything they are taught. This is food security and the STEP coming together is one of the best things that have happened. The STEP workers could go out and start their own thing which I do not see as competition because the more farmers we have out there means greater food security.”
Foods grown on Bountiful Harvest Farm include tomatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet pepper, pumpkins, onions, water melons, squash, eggplant, cucumber, and herbs and thyme. While the food is grown mainly for the local market, they export tomatoes and cucumber to St. Thomas. As a good corporate citizen, Bountiful Harvest Farm donates food to the JNF General Hospital, the Cardin Home, the Children’s Home and the School Meals Programme.
“This is my fulltime business now,” Huggins said. “This is something I love to do – it has come from a hobby to a business, and now I am training others to pass down the knowledge and skills. It is not about competition – it is about the future and the empowerment of everything and increasing food security in our beloved country, thanks to the STEP.”