The Sister Islands featured prominently in the awards recognizing agricultural achievement handed out at the National Heroes Day ceremony on Monday.
The family of Capt. Keith Tibbetts was honored among Cayman’s Early Pioneer awardees, while Silas Bodden, Margarito “Merch” Chantilope, and Vevly “Mr. TeTe” Valentino Dixon, were recognized as pioneers. Colleen Vioris Gibson, Dwayne Jeremy McFarlane and Mirjana Mirjanic all received recognition as emerging pioneers.
Numerous Sister Islanders were also recognized in memoriam, along with others honored for their continued service to agriculture.
Parker Tibbetts received the early pioneer award on behalf of Capt. Keith Tibbetts’s family, who started the Keson Poultry Farm on the Brac.
“The farm actually had its origins in the chickens my grandmother left to me when she emigrated to the United States when I was around 11,” said Mr. Tibbetts, who hails from the Bight. He noted his father had, among other things, always been a farmer, growing produce on the family grounds.
“My parents helped me build a coop, and over time it went from a small coop to us raising fryers, then layers, to having our own incubator for eggs we brought in from the U.S.”
He recalled how that was a major step up from relying on imported day-old chicks which needed to be transported with great care and which did not always survive the shipping.
“The farm became a family affair, and we had it for about 20 years, until we started phasing out the business over time,” said Mr. Tibbetts. Market forces eventually made the cost of raising chickens locally unable to compete with the low price of imported chickens.
“We are very honored to be recognized as pioneers in chicken farming and the first to make a business out of it on the Brac,” said Mr. Tibbetts.
Vevly Valentino Dixon of Spot Bay was recognized as an agriculture pioneer for his work as a cattle farmer. The cattle were kept on the bluff, which was only accessible by footpath, and he developed a way to pump water up onto the bluff for the animals, which otherwise had to be moved around constantly and led down to water in times of drought. As well as building a cistern on the bluff, he advocated for construction of roads on the bluff to allow for better access to agricultural areas. He built up a successful business which his sons carry on.
“This award means a lot for the common people who work hard, doing things that so many people just take for granted,” said Mr. Dixon’s son, Dudley, who with his mother Azedell accepted his father’s award.
“Our family came a long way, being now one of the largest cattle owners in the Cayman Islands, and the largest on the Brac. Our family really appreciates the recognition for his hard work,” he said.
Andrew Theopholus McFarlane of Spot Bay was nominated on the memorial scroll. Elsa Annie Rose Scott recalled how her grandfather worked hard growing produce and raising cattle.
“I was quite proud and honored to receive the Agriculture Scroll on Heroes Day, on behalf of my grandfather for his noble contribution to the development and delivery of agriculture to the Cayman Islands, specifically Cayman Brac,” said Ms. Scott. “Mr. Andrew, as he was affectionately called, was a caring, respectable and hard working man who practiced general animal healthcare, raised hundreds of cattle, and farmed his many grounds on the bluff to support his 12 children, grandchildren and other family members and friends.”
Mr. McFarlane, who passed away in the 1970’s was also a well-known butcher. “All the Brackers would come to his stall for the best cuts of beef,” said Ms. Scott.
The beef stall is used today by his son, Melvin McFarlane, who followed in his footsteps as a butcher and veterinarian.
“I am a very proud granddaughter of this amazing gentleman who assisted greatly in raising and molding me into the strong, hard working, caring and respected woman that I am today,” Ms. Scott said.
Sister Islands Heroes Day Award Recipients
Capt. Keith Tibbetts family “Keson Poultry Farm”
Margarito “Merch” Chantilope
Vevly Valentino Dixon
Colleen Vioris Gibson
Dwayne Jeremy McFarlane
James Ballenger Christian
Seford Samuel Ebanks
Capt. Elvern Kinsley Hurlstone
Capt. Charles L. Kirkconnell
Elton Rae Martin
Andrew Theopholus McFarlane
Capt. Clyde E. Scott
Edison Alva Scott
Erbin Adolphus Tibbetts
Long Service Awards:
Alvin Editha Bodden
Dario Henry Bodden
Robert Ainsley Bradshaw
Hinton Roxroy Conolly
Glen Shirley Dilbert
Jarvis Ralf Dixon
Sarah Valentine Dixon
Judith Nadine Ebanks-Oyog
Mildred Theresa Hebbert-Mena
Delano Truman Lazzari
Freda Lillieth Lazzari
Pedro Manuel Lazzari
Murray Graham Martin
Melford Andrew McFarlane
Elvis Jeffrey McKeever
Darlene Cecilia Robinson
Dervyn M. Scott
Heinley Lawrence Scott
Norma Areila Scott
Sherrydale Alva Whittaker