Delores Chandler: A leading women farmer in Barbados



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Content: Delores Chandler is a farm leader in Barbados. She holds executive offices in the Food Crop Growers’ Association and the Barbados Agricultural Society. Mrs. Chandler shares several good farming and livestock practices, including the preparation, planting, and care of a vegetable seedling bed. She also gives tips on transplanting and on feeding and marketing pigs. We describe Mrs. Chandler’s philosophy of getting ahead, the way she helps others, and her thoughts on the important role of women in farming.

Note: Before using this information, please read the notes at the end of the item.

Not long ago, George Atkins visited Delores Chandler, a leading farmer in Barbados, a small island country near the northeast coast of South America. Barbados has many women farm leaders. Here’s his report of the visit:

Seedling beds

When I arrived at Delores Chandler’s farm, she was watering one of her raised seedling beds. It was about 2 metres (6 feet) square and raised about 20 to 25 centimetres (8 to 10 inches) above the rest of the ground. The beautiful, healthy, young cabbage plants were just ready for transplanting.

Delores told me that she prepares her seedling beds by applying very fine, well-rotted manure, digging it in about 15 centimetres (6 inches) deep. She keeps it moist while she lets it rest for a few days. She then turns it over again with a shovel or fork and plants her seeds no more than 1 centimetre (1/2 inch) deep in rows close together. She then covers the bed with freshly cut palm leaves or black sacking and keeps it moist by watering each day. The covering keeps birds away from the seeds and it helps keep the bed warm. As soon as the seeds have sprouted, Delores removes the covering and, with regular watering and a little fertilizer, her seedlings grow very well.

Delores Chandler’s philosophy

Delores Chandler takes the trouble to do everything well and she gets very good results. Her philosophy is, “If it’s worth doing at all, it’s worth doing well, as well as I possibly can.” And when I went out into her field of cabbages and tomatoes, the fine crops I saw proved, without a doubt, that her philosophy pays off.

Planting tip

Here’s a planting tip she passed on. They have strong winds in Barbados, mainly from the east. Because of this, when Delores is setting out vegetable seedlings in the field, she plants them so they are slanted west, away from the wind. That way, they get a better start.

Delores Chandler’s leadership

As you can see, Delores is a busy, hard-working farmer. She leads the way among her neighbours in trying out new and better methods. Because of this, other vegetable farmers in Barbados who belong to the Food Crop Growers’ Association have elected her president of their organization. She is also First Vice-President of the Barbados Agricultural Society, the main farmers’ organization, of which the Food Crop Growers are a part.

Raising pigs

Altogether, Delores grows about 1 acre (3/8 of a hectare) of vegetable crops. There are a few old breadfruit trees at the back of her farm. As we walked under them, she saw that four breadfruit had fallen on the ground, so she picked them up. When we went into the pig barn, she sliced the breadfruit up to feed to her seven pigs. She told me she also gives them cabbage leaves from the outside of heads that she will sell. Mainly, however, they eat manufactured feed that she buys. She hopes that, someday, the farmers’ co-operative will import pig feed like this for its members, or better yet, manufacture livestock feeds like this right in Barbados.

Where and how does she market her pigs? She’s found that she makes the most money from her pigs by taking them to a butcher when they weigh about 90 kilos (200 pounds). He kills them and cuts up the meat for her to sell to some of her regular customers. Also, she keeps some of the meat for her family.

How did she get started raising pigs in the first place? A few years ago, she was chosen by fellow farmers as one of the top ten farmers in her country. With the other nine, she went to the neighbouring island country of Trinidad. There she met a woman farmer who kept pigs. She looked carefully at her pigs, her pig barn, and the strong pens in the barn, and she asked a lot of questions. When she got home, Delores thought long and hard. She went to the bank, where she borrowed enough money to go into the pig business herself, and she has done well with it ever since.

Secrets of success

Delores Chandler says you should look carefully at what other people do, and if they are successful, you can learn from them. And this is what other farmers in Barbados do. They come to her for advice and she does what she can to help them.

Another one of Delores’ secrets of success is that every day, she plans what she will do that day. This way, she doesn’t waste her time. For example, after she had showed me her pigs, we went into her house where we talked about her farming. At exactly half-past three, she looked at her watch and said she would have to go out to her irrigation pump and start the engine. She needed to put water on a section of her field where her husband and her son-in-law would be helping her transplant some of those cabbage seedlings after they got home from their jobs. By watering the land for one hour—until half-past four—it would be just right for planting at half-past five.

Safety net

This leading Barbadian farmer believes strongly that everyone should have a “safety net,” something to fall back on in case of a crop failure or a drop in income or in the amount of food you have for your family. You could have extra trees for extra income, or perhaps some skill or trade you can learn like basket making or dressmaking. She also thinks that, if possible, children and young people could grow a few things that they themselves could sell. Or perhaps they could keep some small animals or poultry. Either way, they could learn how to earn their own money. That’s good training for young people that a mother can encourage. “Women must realize,” she said, “that they are more important than men.”

More philosophy

Delores Chandler is 50 years old. She told me, “I have been married since I was 19, and I never let my husband take my ambitions away from me.” One time, many years ago, she saw an old friend. Here’s what she said about her. “This girl and I had gone to school together. In those days, we were very poor. But after school, she learned to be a nurse. When I was talking with her, she had become a head nurse, and I was just a little farmer. I said to myself, ‘What did I really do with myself? She has a career and here I am a vegetable farmer, but I too have an honourable career. She’s taking care of the sick, I am feeding the nation. We all work, it takes everybody to do his or her part.’ I really felt great within myself. I am just as important as she is. The next time I saw her, I told her, ‘I feel good. Both of us are doing good for our country.’ So that is the approach we must take as women and don’t let anybody cut us down.”

And that’s George Atkins’ report on Delores Chandler, a leading farmer in the island country of Barbados. I hope you’ve heard some ideas that may be helpful to you, as you continue working for our nation in the basic industry of agriculture.


1. This item could be split roughly in half. The second part could begin at Raising Pigs.

2. References are made to topics more fully covered in other DCFRN items. Information in them could well be presented with this item.

Vegetable Gardening (Part 2 – Planting Seeds in a Garden and in a Seedling Bed) – Package 7, Item 3

Vegetable Gardening (Part 3 – Care of Seedling Plants in a Seedling Bed) – Package 7, Item 4

Watering Seedlings and Applying No Cost Fertilizer – Package 5, Item 6

Some Simple Ways to Boost Vegetable Production – Package 9, Item 8

Trying a simple idea – Package 12, Item 2

Testing a new farm method – Item 5 in this Package (17)

A good start for your baby pigs – Package 12, Item 9

Keeping Farm Animals Healthy and Productive – Package 10, Item 1

Handling Pigs – Package 7, Item 7

Information sources

All information was obtained from Delores Chandler in interviews by George Atkins, DCFRN’s Founding Director, and by Ken Husband, a former public relations officer for the Barbados Agricultural Society through the courtesy of Haynesley Benn, General Manager.