Celebrations as agriculture chief hangs up his hat

Friends, family, staff and members of the agricultural community gathered last weekend to celebrate the retirement of Dr Alfred Benjamin who headed the Department of Agriculture for 19 years and was the country’s longest serving chief agricultural and veterinary officer.

Dr. Benjamin and his wife Rhonda

Dr Benjamin and his wife Rhonda enjoy the retirement party with family, friends, and Department of Agriculture staff

Dr. Benjamin was warmly greeted on arrival by Adrian Estwick, the new director of agriculture.

More than 150 guests settled under a large tent at Pedro castle for an evening of reminiscing, food and dancing. Guests included His Excellency the Governor Mr Stuart Jack, CVO and his wife Mariko; Leader of Government Business, Hon Kurt Tibbetts and wife Shirley-Ann; Minister of Health and Human Services, Hon. Anthony Eden; MLAs Osbourne Bodden and Alfonso Wright; Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture, Kearney Gomez; Director of Agriculture, Adrian Estwick; Ministry officials and Department of Agriculture staff.

Hon. Kurt Tibbetts praised Dr Benjamin and commended him for his contribution to the growth of the agricultural sector during his years with the department. Mr Tibbetts said: ‘A wise author once wrote that ‘a successful team beats with one heart.

‘This department truly has a big healthy heart and though Dr Benjamin is leaving it will continue to beat for many years to come.’

During the ceremony Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture, Kearney Gomez presented Dr Benjamin with an award of recognition sculpted from Caymanite by Dr Joseph Jackman, himself a former Chief Agricultural and Veterinary Officer.

In accepting the award, Dr Benjamin thanked those who had supported him and the department over the years. He said: ‘Our customers saw the department as a tall tree full of mangoes and I saw them shaking the tree and looking for fruit.

‘I hope we gave them what they needed to take the sector from a point of subsistence farming to a point where the sector has grown and matured and is now partnering with other sectors in an agri-tourism project.

‘Caymanians are people who’ve aspired to a high quality of life and I’m grateful to have been a part of the advancement of agriculture in our islands.’

Although Dr Benjamin has retired from the civil service he has pledged to remain active in the agricultural community and will continue as Chairman of the Cayman Islands Veterinary Board.