Cato named top male sugar worker
He works hard, day in and day out. And you couldn’t find someone more passionate about Barbados’ sugar industry than Neville Cato.
For his consistency and dedication on the Castle Plantation, St Peter, Cato has been duly rewarded as the outstanding male sugar worker for 2018 by the National Cultural Foundation.
On the plantation, Cato assists in planting and reaping canes and various vegetables.
Cato, beaming with pride, is elated to have been acknowledged for his commitment to an important industry.
“I am feeling real grateful, thankful and happy for being recognised. I was wondering at the twilight of my years if it would come because I honestly felt like I made a contribution. And I think everyone who knows me would say I am justified in getting the award,” Cato said.
It was over 40 years ago that a youthful Cato relocated to Barbados from St Vincent, his land of birth.
He made the most of opportunities he had and, on reflection, is grateful to two people who were instrumental in his start and being a success in agriculture: “my former manager, Greg Jordan, and a lady by the name of ‘Girly’ Goodman”.
Saw something good
“When I first went into the sugar industry, she was the one who took me to the farm. I was in my early 20s, but I loved agriculture and my manager, Mr Jordan, saw something good in me. What I was able to have accomplished through the years I give much credit to him. I also want to thank the people of Speightstown and surrounding districts who supported me through the years and encouraged me to work towards my goal.”
Reflecting on some of his days in the industry, Cato said that there were good times and hard times, but they turned out to be rewarding.
Hands were blistered
“The first time I cut cane, I went home and my hands were blistered up and my sister asked me if I was going back. I told her, of course I went in the sea in the evening and I bathe and I went back the next day . . . . [when] I went back, I was the laughing stock of the field. But on the third day, a young man came up to me and told them, one day, they would look up to me. He gave me a pair of gloves and I took them and they really helped me out . . . . I enjoy what I do. I work hard. I was able to raise my children and provide them with the necessities. I was able to make myself a living,” the 65-year-old said.
For Cato, being a sugar worker is much more than a job; for him, it’s his way of contributing to an industry which has done so much for the country and, more important, one that has allowed him a sense of pride in being able to look after his family.
“There is no disgrace working in agriculture. I am proud of who I am. I was able to make myself a living out of agriculture,” he said.
Cato said during his 42 years in the industry he has seen many changes, some of which were hurtful to watch.
“The changes we are going though are very difficult. The harvester is taking over now. A lot of the plantations aren’t growing foods like onions, sweet potatoes, carrots, and so on. That was the base of the agricultural sector. We were able to produce sugar cane. The plantation made profits off sugar cane and was able to pay the workers off of vegetables at the time. I’m a bit saddened because our food import bill is much too high. Many of the things we import we can produce here. We need to go back to the basics. The soil in our country needs manpower,” he declared.
Cato is an optimist when it comes to the sugar cane industry. He believes it will rebound and do well again.
“I honestly feel like the agriculture sector has been left behind while we focus on tourism and the international business sector. We need to put our heads together and get it back to a position [where] it is important to the economy. I strongly believe it can come back,” he said.
Encouraging young people
Stressing that there is pride in agriculture, this man of the land is also encouraging young people to get involved in the industry because there is work for them.
“I encourage young people to join the sector, we need them. We should encourage the young people to get involved, but we must first appreciate them. Let us be mindful of the fact that young people are not going to come and accept $65 a day. And if that’s the price, there must be an incentive for them,” he said. (DB)