By Lakhram Bhagirat
Just as she was about the complete the last lap of her secondary education, Jennifer Singh was forced to drop out of school because her parents could not have afforded to fund her education anymore. It initially broke her spirit but did not crush her dreams of embarking on a career in agriculture.
Today, she is living that dream and pushing the boundaries as it relates to growing exotic fruits and vegetables in Guyana.
Singh hails from Better Hope on the East Coast of Demerara and she operates the Triple J Plant Shop in Mon Repos. But what makes her business stand out is the fact that she has been experimenting with growing non-traditional fruits and vegetables.
Thus far, she has been successful in bringing to Guyana, a variety of non-indigenous plans such as grapes, strawberries, raspberries, mulberries, Russian pomegranate, Florida oranges and a whole host of others.
Singh has a vast knowledge of agriculture since she developed a love for it from a young age.
“I have been so much into agriculture from since I know myself. Everywhere I go and I see plants, I always beg for a piece and started from there. I just love nature and what I think is that everybody could have these stuff like the fruits and so that I do,” she said.
The 34-year-old single mother said her business started just about five years ago with her now ex-husband, who is an agricultural engineer.
The aim behind Triple J Plant Shop is to provide everyone with the opportunity to be able to grow the food they eat and ever since the shop became operational, Singh has been experimenting with the various techniques to ensure that she sells the best plants. All of the fruit trees and every plant that comes from her shop is fully organic.
The various fruit trees that she sells are fast bearing and grafted so there is no need for big yard space and long waiting time.
“If you don’t have the space in your yard and you don’t need a big space in your yard because we have these stuff that grows and bears in pots. Now you can have them indoor, in your home as well. Now you don’t have to worry that you have this big tree that will grow in 7-8 years now it can grow in just 18 months and in even lesser time than that,” the entrepreneur said.
Singh’s mother comes from a farming background and has been her biggest inspiration. In fact, her mother’s side of the family is still actively involved in farming.
The variety of grape that Singh grows and sells is called Riverbank and was first brought from the United States. It started from a stem that she successfully grew.
“The grapes we started that like 2-3 years ago. We did it from stems that we brought from the United States and had no complications. The variety that we have is the Riverbank and if you know how to prune the fruit as it is growing, you can be able to have your fruit growing at a bigger size. Every customer we have, we explain what to do. As much as we can, we visit everybody that we sell the plant to, we make sure we go and make sure it growing well.
“With our grapes, there is no worry, you need to worry that it will need sun or rain, it grows in any weather. You don’t need to worry about the soil or anything, not too much water at least but you can plant in any soil you have. Also, no fertiliser because we go with the organic stuff,” she explained.
Meanwhile, for the strawberries, they initially started growing that from stems but also tried the seeds and both methods were successful.
“It came out successful. It was a whole lot and we started to sell when it actually was flowering and we thought the time would have been 18 months but it was actually lesser time of bearing,” she said.
“We do the air layering [so] you can be able to get and it grows in shorter times like 18 months and also for the fruits we do the budding. We select the best ones from the tree and the best time to do that is when it is bearing.”
Singh and her team continue to experiment with growing exotic crops and bringing them to Guyana. She noted that people are sceptical when it comes investing in the exotic crops but is hopeful that will change. Her team does not just sell seedlings, rather they go out and provide the information necessary for the success of the plant to their customers.
“Agriculture is like growing your own fruits, your vegetables at home and eating organic stuff instead of using fertilisers. The feeling of picking your fresh tomatoes, your peppers, your oranges, everything just in your home instead of going to the market to buy these stuff and so on. So that is why I am so into it and it is what I want to do and want everybody to have the opportunity to have their stuff growing,” she said.
Singh continues to expand her business and is cementing her place as one of the up and coming agro-entrepreneurs.