Youth Farmer, Toni-Ann Lalor, who dreams of revolutionising the agricultural industry, is the first Jamaican to win the annual United Nations World Pageant, which was held in New Delhi, India, from May 2 to 7.
The pageant seeks to identify the world’s best Community Service or Tourism Ambassadors, to foster international friendships and understanding with cultural harmony.
Miss Lalor was judged on her sports and fashion wear, national costume, and evening gown as well as an interview to demonstrate her knowledge of social charity, community service and current events.
On her arrival at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston on May 14, she was welcomed by Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Pearnel Charles Jr., representatives from her sponsor, Seprod Limited, as well as family and friends.
Minister Charles Jr., who congratulated the young farmer on her achievement, told JIS News that she is affectionately seen as the “Farm Queen” by the Ministry.
“She is the image and the reflection of all that we want in advanced farming. We’re proud of her achievements and the character she expresses and how she has represented her country,” the Minister said.
“She has never left out that she is a farmer. She said to the world, ‘look how beautiful a farmer can be’ and that means a lot to me, my daughter and other youth looking on,” he added.
Meanwhile, Miss Lalor said she is grateful and excited for new opportunities to revolutionise the agricultural industry with more youth inclusion.
She noted that this will fall under her new duties as the winner of the Pageant, while adhering to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
“[I want to help] end food poverty, so throughout my tenure, I will be making sure that I am the example of what I want to see,” she told JIS News.
Miss Lalor said her vision is to strengthen food security through innovation and technology, finding loans and grants that are accessible to young people and rebranding agriculture to make it “more appealing and attractive to our young girls and boys”.
To achieve this, she said that she intends to continue partnering with the Ministry and the private sector.
Miss Lalor pointed out that while she works to develop a “state-of-the-art farmland”, she will soon be hosting tours for high-school students on her farm, which located in Wigton, Manchester, to inspire them to enter the industry.
She grows sweet potato, watermelon, carrot, pumpkin, yam, tomato, sweet pepper, and cantaloupe on her farm.
“I do them in stages and in different batches. Normally I grow two or three crops at a time, but now as I set up my farm as a state-of-the-art farm, I have a little of everything,” she said.
With that effort, Miss Lalor wishes to first improve the irrigation system on her farm, “because all of what I do is from a water tank. I also have two properties and I am hoping to develop the other side innovatively”.
She is encouraging interested youth to not consider farming as a “dirty man’s job” but one which deserves as much respect as other industries.
“Beauty Queens are normally doctors, lawyers and teachers, but I’m looking forward to sharing this platform with youth who are from poor communities, [to tell them] that their dreams are valid. It doesn’t matter where you’re from; it doesn’t matter how you start; it’s how you end,” she said.
The United Nations World Pageant promotes healing among nations, while bringing together more than 60 delegates from more than 40 countries around the world, who compete on behalf of their country.
SOURCE: JAMAICA INFORMATION SERVICE