This year’s event was of particular importance as the association made a donation of $40,000 ($5.1M JMD) to Dr. Derrick Deslandes, President of the College of Agriculture, Science & Education (CASE) for the second installment on the Plant Tissue Culture Lab project that OFANA is funding. This amount, when combined with the $60,000 donation made on May 28, 2017, brings the total donated in 12 months to $100,000 ($12.9M JMD). OFANA has agreed to fund this project for an estimated cost of $120,000.
President Deslandes was effusive with praise for OFANA and its efforts to help the students at CASE and the college community in general. “On behalf of the CASE family, let me express sincere thanks to OFANA for its continued interest and support in the institution” he said. “The partnership between OFANA and CASE has indeed been strengthened over the last 2 years and we are indebted to OFANA for funding the Plant Tissue Culture Lab as well as the scholarships that it provides our needy students” he concluded. The Chairman of the Board of CASE, Major George Kates also thanked OFANA for its bold and resolute efforts and its contributions and commitment to the success of the college.
Among the other major highlights of the full weekend of activities was the attendance and message by the keynote speaker, Senator the Honourable Ruel B. Reid, Minister of Education, Youth and Information. He referenced the altruistic work that OFANA is doing for its alma mater and the support of Jamaica’s agriculture. “I am very impressed by the fact that OFANA seeks ways to encourage, develop, enhance and sustain the agricultural industry through its patriotic efforts”, he commented. He thanked the organization for its goodwill and purposeful action and encouraged the group to expand its activities into mentoring programs for the students. The Honourable Robert Montague, Minister of Transportation and Mining also attended the Gala Dinner on Saturday, May 27th. He thanked OFANA for its multi-faceted contribution to CASE and wished the organization continued success.
This year’s annual meeting also had added significance as a new OFANA Executive Board was elected. Norma Jarrett, was re-elected as President of the association. The Board is further complemented by nine other members, who will serve for a two-year period. “As one of its founding members, I am deeply honored to witness the commitment and outstanding contributions of our members and donors to OFANA”, the President said. “The theme ‘Partnering with CASE in Pursuit of Excellence’ will be reflected in the organization’s 5-year strategic plan as we execute and implement it in the coming years” she added. Norma reminded the audience that in addition to the contribution to the Plant Tissue Culture Lab, OFANA has also provided scholarships to CASE students with a cumulative value of $41,500. She thanked the attendees as well as the Florida Region, led by Vice President Doreen Danvers, for a well-planned and meticulously executed event.
At the Gala Dinner on Saturday night, OFANA also honored the four Baxter brothers, who are the only known siblings to have graduated from the Jamaica School of Agriculture (JSA) over an eighteen year period, beginning in 1963. They are Samuel Baxter, (1963); Stanley Baxter (1972); Lawford Baxter (1974); and posthumously, Hezron Baxter (1981). Minister Ruel Reid and Mrs. Dudley Wilson, who worked at JSA and was a ‘mother’ to all the students during her employment at the school, were also inducted into the Ole Farmer fraternity as honorary Ole Farmers. Among the other distinguished guests were Leo Gilling, Chairman of the Jamaica Diaspora Education Task Force and Masters of Ceremonies at the Gala Dance and Dr. Fritz Pinnock, President of Caribbean Maritime University.
The weekend culminated in the customary Praise and Worship service on Sunday followed by the farewell brunch. The OFANA choir, led by Ole Farmer Vanetta James, provided spiritual renditions while Ole Farmer, Reverend Roy Robinson, delivered a very moving sermon and message. The Vote of Thanks was given by Wendell Codner, Public Relations Officer. He reiterated the hard work and dedication of the event’s organizing committee that resulted in a very successful weekend as well as thanking Mr. Charles Hill for providing the music for the Gala Dinner. Moreover, he challenged all the stakeholders of CASE to enable the institution to produce graduates with the skills to meet the agricultural challenges of the 21st century.
President Jarrett reminded the audience that the 13th Annual General meeting will be hosted by the Northeast Region on May 24 to 26, 2019.