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Youths For Excellence, Columbia University, and Ministry of Agriculture Collaborate on the Farm the Future Initiative

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Youths For Excellence (YFE), in collaboration with Columbia University and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Mining, is excited to announce the forthcoming launch of the Farm the Future Programme in April 2024. This innovative initiative aims to empower Caribbean youth in vulnerable communities with urban agriculture skills, promote sustainable farming practices, and drive the growth of the agricultural sector in Jamaica.  

Columbia University joins as the newest partner, alongside prestigious institutions like The University of the West Indies, Johns Hopkins University, Princeton University, and Amherst College. The pilot project in Jamaica has been allocated an estimated budget of US $3.4 million.  

“We are looking forward to Columbia University coming on board with their decades of expertise in academic research and taking the Farm the Future project to the next level. This collaboration fulfills a crucial mandate of FTF to strengthen STEM education and research initiatives in Jamaica. I am excited about the huge knowledge transfer between our local and international university partners,” says YFE Founder, Board Co-Chair, and President Jénine Shepherd.  

The Farm the Future Programme, a vocational training and job placement program, will equip 25 Jamaicans between the ages of 15 and 50, with a particular focus on women and youth, with the necessary skills for urban agriculture. The program incorporates modern technologies, including virtual reality (VR), in its education delivery. Participants will have the opportunity for further training on FTF farms or partner farms, and the program will facilitate seed funding and encourage participants to start their own agribusinesses.  

“I am excited to get more young people, especially involved in farming. We are fully exposed to food insecurity: our food import bill quadrupled during the pandemic when supply chains were disrupted. You throw rising costs of air and freight into the mix due to increased fuel prices and tighter vessel supply, and you end up with the Baltic dry index shooting up by 59%. On top of this, human capital development declined globally two years in a row for the first time ever, and you wonder why murders shot up 8% and robberies by 17% in 2022? FTF is not a perfect solution, but it is a start for the nation. Young people need to be at the heart of this. Our farmers need more sustainable means of production, and it’s clear that tourism should not be our crutch,” says YFE Founder Jénine Shepherd. 

 Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries & Mining, Floyd Green, emphasized the importance of collaborative efforts in the agricultural sector during his keynote speech at the “Thinking Global, Educating Local: Farm the Future” webinar held on June 20, 2023. Minister Green highlighted the sector’s contribution of 8.3% to Jamaica’s GDP and outlined strategic priorities, including food security, agribusiness development, the adoption of climate-smart technologies, and the expansion of agricultural exports. He expressed his commitment to empowering youth in agriculture through incentives, mentorship programs, and capacity-building initiatives.  

Professor Oren Pizmony-Levy, Director of the Center for Sustainable Futures at Columbia University, moderated the webinar series, and expressed his satisfaction with the Farm the Future Programme. He stated that Columbia University is looking forward to this collaboration and bringing its expertise to the Jamaican youth and helping them with the best practices.  

The collaborative partnership between YFE, Columbia University, and the Ministry of Agriculture marks a significant milestone in driving forward the agenda for sustainable agriculture in Jamaica. The program aligns with the Ministry’s vision to upskill Jamaicans, promote climate sustainability, and enhance the competitiveness of the agricultural industry.  

FTF is currently pursuing accreditation through the Jamaica National Agency for Accreditation. For more information, please visit or follow us on social media: @youthsforexcellence on Instagram and Facebook, or @YFEIntl on Twitter

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