PATRICIA DePass, 63, has spent most of her life in farming and she has absolutely no regrets.
DePass, a trained music teacher, told All Woman that before farming she worked as a housewife raising her five children in St Andrew, so when her father approached her to help him with his farm, she was willing but somewhat conflicted.
She further explained that she helped out as much as she could and eventually went into it full-time after her marriage collapsed. She ended up acquiring one of her father's four farms, which led to her becoming a full-time poultry farmer.
Now in farming for approximately 27 years, DePass raises chickens and pigs and sells eggs and pork from her wholesale shop in Kingston — Eggs and More. She was recently named the Nutramix champion farmer for 2017.
However, the graduate of St Andrew High School for Girls explained that getting to where she is now was no easy feat, and took much hard work and dedication.
“When I started I was selling eggs from a van downtown, and it was 15 years before I could actually get a shop. It was a lot of work. I started growing birds at one point, then I got into selling chicken manure to coffee farmers in Blue Mountain, but things got bad and they could no longer afford it. Then the economy got really bad and production went down. Back in 1997 I was producing 20 cases of eggs per day. I am now down to seven. The cost of living went up but salaries didn't, so we had to cut back on production and find a way to ensure we were sustainable,” she said, explaining that she is the only one of her siblings who didn't lose her farm on account of the economic situation.
Eventually, after acquiring her wholesale store, she expanded from eggs and pork to include selling beef and grocery items.
Today, as champion farmer, she encourages young people interested in farming to be serious about the occupation and not regard it as a poor man's job.
“Opportunities are plenty. Think of ways to ensure it is sustainable, ensure you can seriously earn from it. There are many aspects to agriculture — exotic plants, exotic birds, farming, poultry — be business-minded about it,” she said.
Regarding her proudest moment as a farmer, DePass said, “Daddy would have been pleased to see how the farm has grown and what it has evolved to be, moving from the van to the shop. Each time people who knew him see me, they say, “You brought the farm to the next level.”
She added: “Now I want to see farmers develop an outlet for what they produce.”