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Newell High School cultivates the next generation of farmers | Loop Jamaica

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Nestled in the fertile farming belt in the breadbasket parish of St Elizabeth, Newell High School is cultivating the next generation of agricultural leaders.

Through  partnerships and hands-on programmes spanning crops, livestock and aquaculture, the institution is promoting sustainable food production among students and the wider community.

“Agriculture is about sustainability and ensuring we can feed ourselves. We have to get our students engaged, even if just in backyard gardening,” Audrey Ellington principal of the school said.

At Newell, agriculture is not just a subject – it is a way of life. The school partners with organisations such as the Jamaica Dairy Development Board (JDDB) and the Jamaica 4-H Clubs, among other entities, to provide livestock, infrastructure and training.

Through a JDDB programme, the school anticipates receiving dairy goats, a refurbished goat house with modern technology, and support for pasture development. This sets the stage for a significant boost in dairy goat-rearing and milk production.

“One of the things the [Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining] is promoting right now is goat milk, which is much richer than cow’s milk. I am sure our students will benefit a lot from it. I think it is something that we need to get into and to look how best to use goat milk and how best to promote it,” Ellington said.  

The school has also does crop production, selling produce such as peppers to major companies like GraceKennedy. The students are deeply involved in these projects and benefit immensely from the practical experience they gain.

Newell High also collaborates with the Ministry’s Fisheries Division on tilapia fish farming and innovative aquaponics systems where nutrient-rich wastewater fertilises vegetable crops. This closed-loop system not only educates students on modern agricultural techniques but also underscores the importance of sustainability in farming.

“We are also into chicken layer (egg) production and broiler production. For the egg production we supply teachers, the community and we use it for the breakfast programme,” the principal outlined.   

“On the farm we have plantain, we have banana, cash crops like hot peppers, callaloo, pak choi, okra and escallion. We have a very fruitful breadfruit tree, and we planted some other fruit trees as well. For the crops, it is mainly used for the canteen, because we have over 400 students on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) and we supply lunches to these students five days per week,” she noted.

Vice Principal of Newell High School in St Elizabeth, Errol Bennett (right), and Agricultural Science teacher, Kirk Black, look on as students collect eggs as part of the layer project at the institution.

For many students like 10th-grader, Shanna-kay Brooks,  agriculture teaches discipline, teamwork and patience.

Having been interested in farming since childhood, she now actively participates in goat-rearing, broiler production, and crop-planting at school, with a particular fondness for caring for the goats.

Her classmate, Shion Channer, cites the joy of learning and working with crops and animals.
“Agriculture is very interesting, and you learn how to farm and get along with animals. However, the reason why I chose agriculture is because of planting crops, particularly peanut and corn. I also plant at home,” Channer said.   

“At school, I see my peers doing agriculture, as it helps improve your teamwork and collaboration and your skills,” she adds.

From grades seven to nine, all Newell High School students study agricultural science before specialising in vocational areas like crop or animal production from grade 10 onwards. About  20 to 30 students annually pursue agricultural science at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) level.  

Student, Tianna Castle, is impressed by the school’s tilapia project,  noting that it helps to address local fish demand as well as provide valuable learning opportunities for students.

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