THE DISTINGUISHED — AGRICULTURE
The farthest thing from Nicole Loraine Wickham’s mind was building a career of raising livestock, until she was encouraged to branch out into the field on uncultivated family land. Giving the idea greater thought, the visionary decided to reconnect to her roots and embark on this business venture of pig rearing.
“I started out with three pigs. It took a while for me to get them because I had to wait for their availability. But that was fine; I was able to set up my pen for their arrival,” she told Flair.
Born and raised in the cool hills of Rose Hall district in Lawrence Tavern, St Andrew, Wickham grew up in a rural farming community. Her parents worked the land, and she witnessed, with great joy, her neighbours showing camaraderie by being their ‘brother’s keeper’.
While attending Oberlin High School, she was exposed to agriculture as a subject, learning the theoretical aspect. As she grew older, she lost interest in farming and soon moved on to pursue a career in shipping.
Wickham, while engaging in several conversations with her partner at the time about ways to earn additional income, revealed that she had some land up by Lawrence Tavern, “One day, after doing some research, he said to me, ‘Why don’t you raise some pigs?’ My response was, ‘Like, really? Why would I want to raise pigs?’” According to him, it was a good business venture to match the theoretical knowledge she gained from her studies. He not only encouraged the pursuit, but made steps to invest in its growth and development. But she shelved the idea.
Days went by, and he remained persistent. She approached her mother about building a pigpen and received advice as to the ideal location on the land. Conducting her own research, she gave in to the idea, “Oftentimes, when I buy pork on the road, it too ‘fatty fatty’. Or when you buy it, it takes forever to cook. I wanted to do something to improve the production and quality of pork, because I love jerk pork.”
For guidance, she called the Rural Agricultural Development Authority, which pointed her in the direction of Nutramix and their subsidiary, Newport Genetics Jamaica Limited to ramp up her pig rearing. It made sense for Wickham to buy pregnant pigs, as she could figure out the production and the turnaround time and just grow from there.
“A pig usually delivers three months, three weeks and three days after becoming pregnant. I was told, on average, that a pig would give me between eight and 10 (piglets) from a litter. When my pigs were delivering, the first one gave me 15. Two days later, when the next pig delivered her piglets, I got 16. Hold on now, this really good! And then the next litter gave me 17! No man, this ah gwaan extra,” she said with excitement. Wickham took the deliveries as a sign of divine blessings and bought more sows (mother pigs) to increase her pig rearing.
She started by selling weaners, advertising via social media platform Facebook. Then sales from word of mouth. Before she knew it, she had doubled and tripled the number of piglets and had seen great success in sales. The businesswoman soon expanded from stock derived from artificial insemination to investing in a boar for natural pregnancy. And when a broken promise of purchase saw her pigs maturing past the weaning stage, she played the cards that were dealt and sold her pigs at a bigger size.
There is no doubting Wickham’s passion, excitement and zest for life. And she is no walkover. This self-taught farmer has developed a direct, no-nonsense approach to business, and she’s one great negotiator. Call it a woman’s intuition, but she knows when to hold, fold, or run from a deal.
Days off, weekends, and time before and after work are dedicated to her farming business. Regular hours are devoted to her nine-to-five. She is currently reading for her master’s in business psychology, having achieved her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration. Wickham is also a proud mother of a daughter.