STREET BEAT: Harvest men reap success
SUGAR HARVESTING has been announced to start next week and the focus of this week’s Street Beat is on some key employees of Barbados Farms, an agricultural company.
The men of Barbados Farms workshop in Bulkeley, St George, are multitalented. Their duties usually change according to whether the harvest is on or off – driving vehicles when the canes are being harvested and doing repairs when they are not.
Victor Lynch has spent more than three decades working at Barbados Farms. He said he was both an arc welder and harvester driver and had watched his profession change with the times.
“I have seen the technology change; the first harvester could only cut burnt canes so we had to modify it but the latest one is fully computerised. When I first saw it, I wondered ‘why we need all this technology’ but once you get into it, you see how much easier it makes your work,” he said.
Lynch said he remembered the days when workers had to lift heavy machinery by hand but was glad to have lived to see a crane taking on the burden. The veteran worker then spoke about his career.
“I started here as a plough boy but once you have a little common sense and a willingness to work, you have the opportunity to come through the ranks. All my life I have worked in the sugar industry and while there have been some regrets, I am happy overall.
“I give God thanks for what I have achieved and I am ready to retire,” he said, adding he would be doing so next year.
David Cumberbatch is another living example of upward mobility. He said he began his career as a bin boy throwing out waste from the harvest bins but was now a mechanic and land cultivator.
“I started at age 21 as a bin boy when a friend of mine was driving a harvester and I asked him for work. I rode bins for a year then I was promoted to driving the bin trailer alongside the harvesters. I did that from 1982 to 1987 before moving to harvester driver. Last year I was driving the tractor and now I am a B class mechanic and will be driving a cultivator when crop starts,” he said.
Cumberbatch said he achieved his success through hard work but lamented this was not something young people were interested in.
“Young people like money but they don’t like to work hard but that is the best way. I am 54 now and I still enjoy the work because I find it fun,” he said.
Cumberbatch said his experiences at Barbados Farms had been bittersweet but there were more sweet than bitter.
“There have been some bitter experiences and some sweet. When I started the pay was low and I was mad to ‘leff’ but I stick around and now I’m happy. Plus, I like that I live in walking distance and don’t have to catch a bus,” he said.
Ivor Whittaker is celebrating more than 30 years at Barbados Farms. He is an A grade mechanic but started as an apprentice.
“I got into this workshop to learn a trade and I fell in love with mechanic work. I love everything about it; I love to know my things are up to standard,” he said.
Whittaker said his workmates were professional and competent with a strong work ethic and spirit and they all worked well together.
Tyrone Jackman, a senior mechanic with more than 40 years’ experience, is considered a master of his craft and is well respected by his co-workers.
“My role is hydraulics. With these new machines, you need a technician, not a mechanic, as we’ve come a long way from manual to electronic. My job isn’t hard; once you like your job it is easy and I like working on these harvesters,” he said.
Jackman started as a harvester driver and learned the inner workings then. He said he works in a stress-free environment and this was why he was able to get more done – because his mind was at ease. However, his pet peeve is cow itch.
“The only thing I don’t like is when the crop got cow itch and I have to go into the field to fix the harvesters; no matter how you wash, you still [itch]. Luckily, some operators can fix the problem themselves, all I have to do is talk to them on the phone,” he said.
When the bell tolls to start this year’s sugar crop these men will be ready and so will the machines they use. Whether the industry is dying or not, at least there are still people dedicated to working at it as hard as possible.