How did you get started?
I used to work in a hydraulics place. I started in garden first, but it was kinda difficult financially I say I couldn’t take it again. I say I going down and work. I doing anything. Well, I learn hydraulics. After 10 years, 12 years in hydraulics, I say nah, the soil keep on calling me, calling me, calling me and I say, ‘I feel I have to go back in the soil’. That was sometime in 2000, and my wife was working with a doctor. I started planting a little chive, and she started grinding a little seasoning, and I used to go out and sell it. We approach the agricultural bank for small business, and we end up getting a loan. We decided to go into agro-processing. That is how I started going back into seasoning.
When you are doing bottled seasoning, it not easy to get a break. If people don’t know your product, is real pressure. You have to come out with a unique product, something that will catch they eye, for them to love it and buy it. We started selling two case, three case. We decided to go to a marketing firm, and they wanted it in bulk, but they wanted it for less than nothing. We now getting a little squeeze in, in Tru Valu. When we get through with Tru Valu, we decide we can make it for ourselves. We started to target other groceries, and we went to the different purchasing departments. Now Paramin have a name eh, with regard to seasoning, and that help me a lot. We started doing up to 100 cases, and as I said, we get the loan from the Agricultural Bank. It wasn’t easy because you have to get a lot of security, and they have to make sure that you own the land.
So you own this land that you farm on?
Girl, yes. I went to a lawyer and we make arrangement, so that every year I pay [amount stated]. This is two acres… If I tell you the story. Honestly, this land was owned by my father, and things was kinda tight with him, so he sold the land, and the person who buy it, sell it, and then afterwards, I come back and buy it over. But it come at a price, eh….It come like family, because this land going right back owned by the Campbells, from my great-great grandfather…This is only part of it.
How did you expand your business?
TruValu started taking a little five case, five case, you know, different branches. Then I went to Sing Chong in Port of Spain, they started with a little ten case….We does do everything genuine, we doh do with starch and thing like that eh, to stretch the seasoning, and we planting we own thing. So, we realise we could be competitive. With the competitors, them have to buy all the raw materials. I try to package my things as cheap as possible. We doing 200 case a month now. We also do a pimento seasoning, with pimento, ginger, chadon beni and garlic. Is that what help us out. Wherever it have a Trinidadian living, Canada, the States, somehow that seasoning reaching. During Covid, I didn’t have no problem locally. It have a name for itself right now, Mal’s and Paramin Seasoning. I name it Mal’s after my wife. We have three workers in the factory.
When you started your farming, did you start by yourself?
I wanted to bring in the children, but they not having it at all because it difficult. I started again with my wife but she and all didn’t like it too much. So, I had to hire people. I have two people working with me. When these guys come out to work six o’clock, seven o’clock in the morning, you have to encourage them. You have to give them incentive. I get started six in the morning until six in the evening, but you wouldn’t work the whole day. When you start at six in the morning, you take a break from nine to ten, then a break from 12 to two, and you start again from two to six in the evening. Every day. Once I making money, everybody making money. I does increase their pay. Them fellas get their bonus. They does get everything. In the camp there, I does cook for them. Every morning, I does bring breakfast for them. That’s why they stay with me.
How do you feel working the land?
Let me tell you something, doing this have you well grounded. With God, it easy. You have to make sure and say a lil rosary in the morning. You does get through. And you have to thank Him, and ask Him for how you would like your day to be. If rain come, thank God. For whatever, thank God. And with this, you have to learn to give plenty. You have to give, give, give. Most of the time when we out doing deliveries on a Friday, and Thursdays, for the people who going away, we does encounter some kinda people out there, boy, under real pressure, so we does try to help them…
I does feel close to God here. When you come in the morning, you thank God for the day, that you get up and breathe. You come in the garden, and when you see the plants, they does inspire you. Whatever bad thing, you eh feeling to work, they does rejuvenate you. I feel the plants is only talk they don’t talk to you. You see gardening up here in Paramin? We are blessed…