St. Elizabeth-based Newell High School cultivates the next generation of agricultural leaders.

Through partnerships and hands-on programs spanning crops, livestock and aquaculture, the institution promotes sustainable food production among its young students and the wider community. Principal Audrey Ellington told JIS News about the school’s rich history and the ongoing partnerships that have fueled its agricultural initiatives.

“Agriculture is about sustainability and making sure we can feed ourselves. We need to engage our students, even if it’s just in the backyard,” she said. At Newell, farming is a way of life. The school partners with organizations such as the Jamaica Dairy Development Board (JDDB) and the Jamaica 4-H Clubs to provide livestock, infrastructure and training. Through a JDDB programme, the school expects to receive dairy goats, a renovated goat shed with modern technology and support for pasture development, which will ultimately lead to a significant boost in dairy goat farming and milk production.

“One of the things the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining is currently promoting is goat’s milk, which is much richer than cow’s milk. I am sure our students will benefit greatly from it. I think it’s something that we need to get into and see how we can best use goat’s milk and how we can best promote it,” Ellington said. The school also excels in crop production, selling products such as pepper to major companies like GraceKennedy.

Newell High is also working with the ministry’s Fisheries Division on tilapia fish farming and innovative aquaponics systems, in which nutrient-rich wastewater fertilizes vegetable crops.

“We also deal with laying hen (egg) production and broiler chicken production. For egg production, we supply teachers and the community, and we use it for the breakfast program,” Ellington outlines.

“On the farm we have plantains, we have bananas and cash crops such as hot peppers, callaloo, bok choy, okra and spring onion. We have a very prolific breadfruit tree and we have also planted some other fruit trees. For the crops it is mainly used for the canteen because we have more than 400 students participating in the Progress through Health and Education program and we provide lunches to these students five days a week,” she added.

Shion Channer, a 10th grader, loves learning how to farm and interact with animals.

“However, the reason why I chose farming is because of planting crops, especially peanuts and corn. I also plant at home,” she said.

“At school, I see my peers doing farming because it helps improve your teamwork and cooperation and your skills,” she added. From grades seven to nine, all students study agricultural sciences before specializing in vocational areas such as crop or animal production from grade 10 onwards. Approximately 20 to 30 students annually pursue agricultural sciences at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate level.