Farm Up Jamaica is the vision of Neil Curtis, an inspirational Jamaican living in New York. Like many Jamaicans living abroad, Neil keeps a keen eye on the goings-on back home. Frustrated by the continuing depreciation of the Jamaican Dollar, high unemployment rates and the decline in home-grown produce, Neil hatched an ambitious plan to help heal Jamaica. The result is ‘Farm Up Jamaica’, a visionary project that is a many faceted and utterly brilliant master plan to make a quantifiable difference in Jamaica.
What Makes Farm Up Jamaica Special?
Farm Up Jamaica gets its funding from donations, gifts in-kind and through volunteering work, much of which is through the Jamaican diaspora. The Non-Profit Organisation works with the Jamaican Ministry of Agriculture to find gaps in the market contributing to the excessive food importations into Jamaica. It uses this information to channel the donations to offer help, employment, education and empowerment to farmers who had all but given up. The revolutionary concept is breathing new life into Jamaican farming with Organic and Sustainable Farming practices. These Organic crops are then available to buy locally in Jamaica and will also enable greater exportation possibilities, helping to stabilise the gap between imports and exports. Plus, the implementation of Organic and Sustainable farming practices is better for us when we consume the pesticide free food and it’s also really good for the Environment too. An all-round Win, Win situation!
Sweet Jamaica Interview with Farm Up Jamaica
I am pleased to announce that the CEO of Farm Up Jamaica, Neil Curtis, took some time out of his busy schedule to take part in Sweet Jamaica Jules’ ‘SUPPORT JAMAICA, BUY JAMAICAN!’ interview series. Neil shares his story and views about his organisation with us in this fascinating read!
1. Introduce yourself and your role in the company?
Hello, my name is Neil Curtis and I am the founder and CEO of Farm Up Jamaica Limited.
2. When was your company established and why did you choose this career path?
Our organisation was founded in July 2013. The reason we chose this path was to create a trustworthy way for diaspora to give back that would have a direct and measurable effect on Jamaica.
3. Tell me about your typical working day?
A work day in New York consists of:
- Communicating by phone and email with farmers who want to participate in the program.
- Diaspora meetings in person, by phone, email and Skype etc
- Interaction with other organizations who want to partner or help the cause
- Working with our fundraising co-ordinator to identify or improve ways to raise funds
- Creating Memorandum of Understanding for organisations that we are partnering with
- Researching new seeds and best practises for Organic Farming
- Live television and radio interviews into U.S., U.K. and Canada
- Consistent communication with our staff and board members
A work day in Jamaica consists of:
- Visits to our current farmers to make sure they are functioning optimally
- Meetings with prospective farmers and their families
- Distribution of Organic seeds and fertilisers to our member farmers
- Interacting with companies who want to partner or sponsor the cause
- Meetings with government agencies for agricultural technical advice or administration
- Negotiating with our vendors to ensure we are receiving the best possible pricing, discounts and incentives
- Creating work forces in areas of interest and ensuring that it includes the best possible pricing, discounts and incentives
- Creating work forces in areas of interest and ensuring that it includes local farmers, students, inner city youth and volunteers
4. What is your company philosophy?
Our company philosophy is to reduce the importation of foreign food by planting our own healthy organic food to save a nation in more ways than one.
5. Where is your Head Office based and do you manufacture / produce your products in Jamaica?
Our Head Office is based in New York. We don’t currently manufacture but all crops that are grown in Jamaica.
6. Do you use Jamaican raw materials in your products?
We use as much Jamaican raw material that is available and only go outside if necessary.
7. Are you Jamaican?
I am Jamaican, from St. Catherine.
8. Tell me your top 3 likes and dislikes about Jamaica?
Likes about Jamaica:
Dislikes about Jamaica:
- 1. Resources taken for granted
- 2. Economy
- 3. Crime
9. What new company plans and visions are you working on?
Organic onion production to replace the 90 percent of onions being imported into Jamaica. Non-GMO organic corn production for local and export markets. Students growing organic food for a lunch program.
10. What is your personal favourite project you are working on and why?
My favourite project is the organic onion cultivation, because it is a serious Jamaican concern and will have a measurable impact on the importation of onions which is a basic staple in every kitchen.
11. Who or what, is your inspiration or role model?
A true love for Jamaica and wanting to see it recover has inspired me to start this organisation.
12. Where can we buy your products in Jamaica and overseas?
Our products will be available under the Farm Up Jamaica label in your local supermarkets in Jamaica. Overseas supermarkets will also have our products where other Jamaican food products are sold.
13. How do you love to spend your free time in Jamaica?
I spend my free time enjoying nature in Jamaica and visiting places that I’ve never been to.
14. If you could be Prime Minister of Jamaica for a day, what would you do?
If I were Prime Minister for a day I would write a policy to effectively address and reduce crime. This would help to motivate lots of returning residents and tourists and create more income for the Jamaican economy!
15. Which Jamaican, dead or alive, do you feel made the biggest contribution to Jamaica and why?
I believe that Marcus Garvey made the biggest contribution to Jamaica. He believed that anything is possible and proved it. Many Jamaicans wait to travel to other countries to evolve into greatness. I believe we need to evolve at home and make Jamaica a greater country!
16. If you could impart one piece of advice to inspire young Jamaicans to start their own businesses or succeed in their chosen career, what would it be?
My advice to young Jamaican’s is to firstly learn money management skills and then start their own businesses and grow their companies to become internationally recognised.
17. If you could change jobs, what would you do?
If I could change jobs, I wouldn’t! I love what I do…
18. Apart from your own company, what is your favourite Jamaican company and why?
My favourite company is Grace. I love the way they have been able to show how a Jamaican company can diversify and grow to become an international brand!
19. What do you believe contributes most to your company’s on-going success?
What contributes to my organizations on-going success is being able to teach people that the glass is half full and not half empty. Bringing inspiration to farmers that thought their lives were over and converting them into patriotic food security soldiers keeps Farm Up Jamaica alive.
20. What do you feel your company has to offer the international and home markets, over and above your competitors?
Our company offers a unique product which is organic Jamaican food. It’s what sets us apart.
21. How do you believe as a nation we can help to build Jamaica?
We can help build Jamaica by becoming a part of the solution. Agriculture only represents 6% of the Jamaican GDP. If the whole country would focus on increasing this number we can build a self-sufficient Jamaica. “Plant Sup’n”.
22. What are your aspirations for Jamaica?
My aspirations for Jamaica is to see the country live up to its popularity, by not only becoming a great place to visit, but a great place to do business.
23. How can people contribute or get involved with Farm Up Jamaica?
People can contribute funds, time, equipment, training, materials, etc.
Farmers can get involved by calling us at: (USA) 516-376-1626 or (JAMAICA) 876-592-5992.
Check out our website: WWW.FARMUPJAMAICA.ORG
We can also be reached by email at: INFO@FARMUPJAMAICA.ORG
Volunteers can email: VOLUNTEERS@FARMUPJAMAICA.ORG
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