Photo/Caribbean Women in Business YouTube
Growing up Bevon Charles was always surrounded by agriculture. She knew it was her calling. “I am blessed to have found my purpose early in life,” she told me. At the core of her aspirations is the need to end hunger and poverty while helping to develop a sustainable agriculture sector in Grenada.
Bevon understands the needs of her people, which made it easy to focus on food security. Armed with a degree in international business and marketing from St. George’s University, Bevon launched Akata Farms. Akata Farms is a self-sustainable farm known for its fresh produce, spices, and poultry. “I started Akata Farms with some savings and a family member gifted me lumber to start my first poultry operation. I eventually obtained a loan as the business expanded,” she said. The business has grown from 10,000 square feet of land and just two crops to nearly 200 acres producing a wide array of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
As the business grew, the need to hire a team became apparent. Bevon was extremely selective in her hiring process. She needed a committed team who understood her vision. Bevon built her team slowly, starting with her father, who with over 45 years of experience in farming, manages the Akata farm sites.
Running a sustainable farm does not come without challenges. Bevon encountered her share along the way. She failed the business twice due to a lack of experience and understanding of the industry. This forced Bevon to seek coaching and mentorship from others with hard-earned expertise. She feels blessed to have great mentors who have helped cut years of the learning process.
Akata Farms is right on track. With an online storefront, Bevon was able to meet customer demand with ease and consistency during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic also opened new opportunities for Bevon. It made it easier for her to get financing due to the growing demand for locally sourced food – a trend that could outlast the pandemic.
Bevon believes a unified farmers network, innovation, and a concerted effort between government and investors are needed to improve and increase agriculture production and food security. Legacy agriculture models will not work. To that end, she is exploring sustainable tools and techniques like AI, nanotechnology, smart buildings, and renewable energy to achieve Akata Farm’s sustainable goals.
Bevon admits that there is a lot of work to be done to build a solid foundation for sustainable farming and agricultural operations in Grenada. However, she has no doubt it can be done. Bevon feels that Grenada has the potential to become a major supplier of fresh produce to neighboring Caribbean islands and investment in state-of-the-art technologies can reduce the country’s dependency on imports, create new jobs, and make agri-businesses more profitable.
When she is not tilling soil, the regional winner of the 2021 Commonwealth Youth Award can be found working on community-based efforts. She has embarked on a climate-smart project that covers over 1200 acres of land across 10 rural communities in the tri-island state comprising of Grenada, Carriacou, and Petite Martinique. Bevon also spearheaded a project called Women Feeding Their Communities to empower female farmers and to help them succeed at feeding their communities.
When I asked how she knew she had the right business idea, Bevon responded, “Because it solves issues that are important not just for me, but once done correctly can create sustainable development for generations.” Bevon would like to turn her attention to the rest of the Caribbean islands after she has created solutions for Grenada to sustain itself.