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Young farmers’ co-op


Young farmers’ co-op

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While some young people shy away from agriculture, a small group of young men and women got together earlier this year to start an agro processing and farming business they hope will reap success.

Shaquille Alleyne, Deon George, and Deshawn Wason and four others own and operate ecogrowers, a small business offering local confectionery and natural juices. They are also into chicken rearing.

“We did a programme at the Ministry of Agriculture,” Alleyne told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY at the recently held BMEX. “That’s where we met and a couple of us decided to get together and form the business.”

Their tag line is “growing the change we want to see” and Alleyne explained that they want to get into organic farming and make “everything a bit healthier”.

“People nowadays are very health conscious and this is one of our reasons for going in this direction. The course was the Youth Agropreneurship Programme and basically, it was about getting young people more involved in agriculture.

“Some of us in the group did agriculture at school but my love of it came from when I was small because I always loved animals, then I realised I could make money from the animals and that’s how I got into agriculture,” said Alleyne.

The decision on which area to get involved in came around the same time as the National Food Day which was observed at the ministry. They discussed it and came up with natural and healthy juices, using as many local ingredients as possible. He added they realised “they were selling very good and we decided to stick with drinks”.

“We then starting growing some chickens and they started selling good too, so we continued doing chickens and then we branched out and started doing confectionery items – nut cakes and sugar cakes – and that is where we’re at now,” Alleyne stated.

ecogrowers’ range of flavours include beet, carrot and ginger, lemongrass iced tea, watermelon and cucumber, green mango, carrot punch, and coconut punch and the best seller is cucumber and ginger.

Wason explained the thinking behind the flavours.

“Beet is not the fastest seller but it sells. We chose it because it’s unusual and it’s healthy as well. As you know some people don’t like sugar, so some of our juices are sweetened and others are not. Some persons ask for the juice they want. We’re trying to cater for the diabetics as well, so we also have some of the other flavours that are unsweetened,” he said,

He and Alleyne noted that some of the flavours were selected by trial and error and they got suggestions from people. When they tried it and it sold well, they kept it.

Noting that Barbadian confectionery tends to be sweet, the young business people decided to try something different and lemon grass nut cake is one of them.

“We boil the lemon grass and use the water when we boiling the nuts and sugar and then we put it together and let it set,” Alleyne explained.

Wason chipped in that they will be offering more flavours in their sugar cakes and nut cakes but he declined to elaborate.

The other partners in the business are: Shakera Daniel, Katisha Thompson, Antonio Headley, Darin Jordan, and Lynn-Marie Weekes.

“They are made in Ellerton, St George at someone’s house, so while a couple of us are doing juices, the others will do the confectionery. We have been to Agrofest, the Multinational Women’s Fair and Port Day and the response so far is that everyone thinks it’s a good idea.

“They like the drinks and the different flavours of the sugar cakes, so it’s been a good, good response, good feedback,” said Wason.

Their seed money came from their savings and their hope is to grow ecogrowers so more consumers would have access.

“We want to go into bigger supermarkets where we can have exposure, increase our production and earn more money,” he said.

“We’re looking to branch out,” added Alleyne, who noted the company started with 12 people.

In order to get the much needed assistance, they contacted the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme and “so far, so good. No complaints” was how they summed up that relationship.

Working with each other can be difficult at times, the young businessmen explained, but it always works out because “each of us has our own gift”.

“Each person brings something different to the table,” Wason said adding, they are all under 30 years old. 

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