It is our pleasure to feature a new collection of articles – Part Ah We (PAW) Series – to highlight the stories of outstanding individuals making real positive change within their community.
Coming from St. Lucia, Patrick Virginie has been living in Barbados for the past 12 years. He arrived after his sisters sent for him and spent 11 years doing masonry work, painting, and working in other trades in Barbados. Yet, despite his skills in other trades, Patrick’s first love and passion had always been farming.
Patrick Virginie, agricultural farmer of the St. Michael South East Constituency
Patrick shares, “When I was home, that’s what I was doing. From a yout man, growing up, my mother showed me how to do farming. When I was 5-6 years old I used to go and garden with my mother, who used to tell me, “Christmas is coming, plant some yam and I will sell it for you and get a little change for you.” So I used to do the little garden. When I came here I was doing a lot of masonry, carpentry work, painting, a lot of different things. But my best things are farming. I love farming to my bone.”
Despite his passion for the land, Patrick was unable to do farming for the first 11 years in Barbados, doing masonry work instead. “It’s hard to get land here,” he says. “In St. Lucia, you will get government land and you will have to work that piece. In Barbados the land is really restricted.” Suddenly, an opportunity presented itself in April 2016. Patrick was passing through Haggatt Hall, and through some acquaintances came to meet a family that owned a plot of land. They negotiated and came to an agreement, whereby Patrick was allowed to work on the land.
It was here that the truly incredible work began. Prior to Patrick’s arrival, the land was completely undeveloped – unleveled and covered in tall grass and bushes. With just a simple farming fork, determination, and “help from Jah,” Patrick completely transformed the plot of land into an agricultural design of 32 beds with a length of 132 feet each. He worked tirelessly and efficiently, not stopping for rain or sun. Most extraordinarily, he worked alone.
“I usually start at 4 o’clock in the morning. I would do 2 or 3 beds every day in the morning. And then when the sun is going down, I would do another 2 or 3. So I would do maybe 6 beds a day. I don’t run from sun, I don’t run from rain. So people wonder, who is he? I don’t left from the rain. The Fadda do his work. I have work to do so I have to do my work.”
Patrick did admit that at times he would receive occasional help from volunteers, most notably Mormons from overseas. Though Patrick was grateful for assistance, those helping were not necessarily experienced in agriculture, and would need direction and guidance. Patrick currently grows a myriad of vegetables on the land, including Chinese cabbage, carrots, lettuce, celery, parsley, thyme, marjoram, okras, yam, sweet potato, cassava, plantain, hot peppers, chives, and numerous herbs.
Currently the St. Lucian sells his harvest from the plot of land. But he aspires to do more with his work, already expanding onto other small plots of land and helping others get started as well. He is in need of water drips for the plants instead of watering manually, in order to save time and effort. He already has a stock of wood and a shed ready and hopes to run a shop. In the long term, Patrick plans on planting over 500 Jamaican ackee trees, and running an ackee shop.
Patrick’s story is highlighted in the context of the struggle of the Rastafarian community, which is at times marginalized or depicted negatively in Barbados. As Patrick reflects, “Right now, a lot of the youts here they don’t like to do farming, or plan, or to do work. They just want to sit down on the block, smoke, no ambition. There’s no opportunity for the youths here… For Rastafari, it is important to know your roots and what part you come from and what you’re doing in the future. Because in life you have to do positive to get positive, while negative will bring negative.”
Patrick believes that the change has to start with the individual and that no matter how much you may try to make a man do something, it has to come from within. He is willing to help bring up Rastafarian and Barbadian youth, and believes that there is positivity to be gained through hard work and ambition. At the core of this message is also the family, and sowing seeds of prosperity and respect in the core family unit from the beginning.
Above everything, it is about passion. “It’s your mind. Your mind has to be on the work and on what you want to achieve. My mind was on it because that’s what I wanted to do all my life. Right now I will take my time. When I want to leave I leave. When I want to come I come. It’s my design. I love it with all my heart.”