Owen’s labour of love
OWEN WALDRON loves getting his hands dirty. His free evenings would see him in the garden nurturing his plants and coming up with new ways to make them grow.
“This was something passed down through the generations,” he told EASY magazine.
“My grandmother was in love with it and my mom made a living out of it; so when my brother and I were growing up we had to work in the garden.
“We also kept animals and before we go to school we had to feed the pigs and other animals. So although I was in the military for 21 years I would still come home and play around with the plants.”
When Owen left Princess Margaret Secondary School he joined the marine division of the BDF when he was 17 years old and over the years he became a leading seaman.
During his tenure there he worked with international humanitarian bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and was deployed on special programmes to help civilians in Haiti after a rebellion broke out under its first democratically elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
Although Owen is proud of having worked with the UN he told EASY, he didn’t want to go into details about his stint in Haiti because it made him too emotional. He said he cries every time he thinks or talks about the images he saw while he was there.
“The military made me physically disciplined but my Mormon upbringing made me spiritually and mentally strong. The army can only make you tough and learn certain principles and values but the gospel has made me the most,” he said.
“Some soldiers ended up drinking and using drugs to cope with the stresses and the things they encounter, but if you have a spiritual mentality it helps with the stresses.
“I also got married early and I was blessed with a wife who supported me. Sometimes I just had to move now, like when there was the hurricane in Grenada, I had to put my life on pause and just go. And if you don’t have someone to fall back on or that can tolerate that you’re going to have problems.”
Owen gave up his career in the Barbados Defence Force (BDF) to become a horticulturist. He explained that his passion for nurturing plants grew overwhelming to the point where his heart was only focused on gardening.
“I learnt that if you had a love for something you should make it work for you so I experimented with plants and I even make organic products from them.”
Owen added that plants also helped him coped with stress. He said it was a joy watching a plant grow from a seedling.
“There is beauty in nature. The father told us to beautify the earth and when you plant something and see it grow and bloom it gives you peace of mind; it is like watching a child grow. I don’t have any but I have a lot of godchildren and I am an uncle. When you watch children develop into something positive it touches you and if a plant dies you feel a way too.
“So you can learn a lot by taking care of plants. You learn about what environments they grow in and if you were to think of them like children you would begin to understand them more.
“When children grow up in the wrong environment someway along the road it affects their development. So applying horticulture to life is something I do.
Owen, a creative mind won a prize four years ago at the Barbados Manufacturers Exhibition: “I created a product under the brand Plant Do Nurseries to help repel pests while giving the plant nutrients; it was made of neem and bay leaf among other things. When this mulch broke down it gave the plant potassium, nitrogen and phostrogen and it repelled pests like whitefly.”
One of Owen’s inventions is a non-bendable kitchen garden, in which he plants herbs and tomatoes. The plants are placed into raised containers so that they are at waist level, thus enabling people to stand erect when tending to them.
Owen also has a number of skills – he is a basket weaver, a leather craftsman and a welder. But he is not selfish, passing on some of these skills to his employees at Waldron’s Creations, in Oistins, Christ Church. He taught one of them how to make leather craft and now she is on her journey of setting up her own small business. Adiel Batson, another employee, is more into the scientific end of plants. He is interested in botany and aspires to study environmental science and biology at the University of the West Indies.
The entrepreneur said that turning his passion into a business was one of the best decisions he ever made.
“I like the Japanese lifestyle,” he said, “I like how they strive to develop their own businesses and how business owners foster relationships with their employees. After working in the army for 21 years I wanted to develop a business whereby I would treat people the way I would want to be treated.
“I wanted to look out for people, train them and be honest when it comes to their salaries. But running a business is not easy; I left a great salary to work for $100 every two weeks. So sometimes you have to start right at the bottom to grow . . . you will appreciate the climb.”