Career & Education

Teen farmer to defend Denbigh title this weekend

Sunday, August 06, 2017

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A career in farming would be the furthest thing from the minds of most teenagers. But at 14 years old, Matthew Thomas is an accomplished livestock farmer, raising goats, cows, and sheep.

He competed against adults and won the Supreme Champion Dairy Heifer award at the Denbigh Agricultural Show in Clarendon last year.

“I have been farming since I was a toddler,” he told the Jamaica Observer. “Just the natural love for animals and being exposed to it from an early age boosted that love I had for them.”

That exposure came from his parents, Winston and Jacinth Thomas, who operate two farms, one in Rhymesbury, Clarendon, and the other in Gutters, St Catherine.

The Thomases allow Matthew and his two siblings to tend to the animals, which includes feeding, vaccinating, deworming, clipping hooves, shearing sheep, and cleaning the pens. He also prepares them for agricultural competitions.

'Well, there was the registration process to get the animals registered for the show and prepared. On the day of the show the animals would be brought to the ring and paraded for the judges to see and judge them based on the breed characteristics, and it so happened that through all our hard work, the judges saw our animal as the best fit for the title Supreme Champion Dairy Heifer,” he said of last year's win.

He's competing again this weekend and intends to retain his title.

“I don't want to reveal too much, but I'll be back with my Holstein. I'm coming bigger and better and once again to be on top,” said Thomas.

Holsteins are known as the world's highest production dairy animals.

The Denbigh show opened yesterday and will wrap up tomorrow, Monday, August 7, which will be observed as Independence Day.

Young Thomas, a student of Glenmuir High School, is not yet at the stage of his educational journey where he has to choose a career path and the related class stream, but he doesn't foresee venturing into any profession other than farming. And he is keen on bringing others along.

“I will always and forever encourage people to go into farming as it is something that can be done for the love of animals or the environment. If you were to go into the rearing of crops, livestock or poultry you cannot go wrong with farming, because there will always be a nation to be fed, and farmers will always be in demand to feed that nation, and so it can a marketable venture, especially if you play your cards right and make the right investments,” said Thomas, sounding wiser than his 14 years.

He continued: “Most of my friends were surprised to find out I was a farmer, and they were even more surprised to see the accomplishments that I have made, especially at such a young age. Over the years many of my friends have reached out to me for advice and tips as they would also like to go into farming. About two weeks ago a friend of mine was saying he wanted to raise animals, but wasn't sure which one to start with, and he had all these questions and was so excited. And it was somewhat a special moment for me to see the impact I have on the people around me, but to also see that young people are turning to farming because of my accomplishments.”

Speaking to his animals' diet, Thomas shared that he has a relationship with Nutramix, which offers him free technical expertise in the breeding of his livestock.

“I use solely and entirely Nutramix feeds in my daily operation. I am also grateful for the free advice and technical expertise which I receive. The information is beneficial in the rearing of the livestock and it also helps in practising proper farming techniques,” the young man said.

Thomas' parents are employees of Nutramix.

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