SIXTY-year-old Satya Nand did not doubt for a second that he was going to take home the award for Vegetable Farmer of the Year at the recent Crest Agriculture Show that was held in Lautoka.
Hailing from the Salad Bowl of Fiji, Satya is a retired school principal and father of three children from Kavanagasau in Nadroga.
For him, retiring was not the end of the world as it was the break that he needed to venture into other avenues to provide for his family.
Upon his retirement in 2008, he decided to go into full-time commercial farming.
"It was a decision that I did not have to ponder upon and one that I believe is the best decision that I have ever made in my life," he said.
This hardworking farmer is utilising 12 hectares of land with a variety of vegetables namely eggplants, red fire chillies, capsicum, maize, pawpaw, tomatoes, cucumber, peanuts, English cabbage, cowpea, rock melons, watermelons as well as rice.
Satya admits that it is hard work but the adrenalin to experience success always keeps him going.
"Farming requires my undivided attention and I always ensure that I work hard to achieve the goals that I have set for my farming program," he said.
Time management is also an important factor towards his success and Satya says it has been a habit for him growing up.
"I was taught from a very young age to always use time wisely as time is wealth and I guess that habit has never left," he said.
Satya wakes up early in the morning and with the assistance of his son, he is on the go until late in the evening.
"I only break for lunch and it is time for work again," he said.
Through sheer determination and hard work, Satya's vegetables have been progressing every week as he practises phase planting to ensure that throughout the main vegetable season, there is consistent supply.
He supplies his vegetables to middlemen twice a week who then distribute to market outlets all over Viti Levu.
With every business, there are plans and goals to be met and this is no different for the retired educator as he tries his best to meet the demands of day-to-day living.
So far, he has purchased a tractor, a truck, a pair of bullocks and the acquisition of a concrete house and shop.
According to Senior Agriculture Officer (Nadroga/Navosa) Adriano Tabualevu, Satya is just one of the many vegetable farmers in Sigatoka that have continued to experience the rewards of vegetable farming.
"Vegetables are short-term crops that are easy to grow but of course, it needs undivided attention.
"With our frequent visits and advisory services to farmers in the Nadroga and Navosa areas, farmers are taught the various technologies as well as practices to ensure healthy production and a good yield come harvesting period.
"Satya has been a very consistent farmer and we are proud of the fact that he has earned the award for this year's Vegetable Farmer of the Year," Mr Tabualevu explained.
As for Satya, he strongly believes that vegetable farming is a very lucrative business and it is important for upcoming generations to learn of the importance of growing varieties of crops for a living.
"There is a scarcity in employment and most of our youths are opting to travel overseas for further education as well as employment opportunities," Satya said.
"Times are tough now compared to the olden days so everyone must work harder to put food on the table.
"If farms for food security, all the better as the family will not have to worry about their next meal and of course with the surplus, they can always sell to neighbours for extra money."
Satya only wishes he can turn back the hands of time so that he can return to his youthful days.
"Youths are full of strength and energy and they have all the time they need to start their farms and progress further.
"My only wish now is for good health so that I may continue with my farming activities."
He adds being given the prestigious Vegetable Farmer of the Year award was a milestone achievement and one that he will cherish for the rest of his life.
"I would like to challenge the youths of this nation to try farming as there is so much to be achieved," he said.
"Please use time wisely and take up farming for a living as the rewards for your hard work will be endless and your accomplishments sweet like honey."
* Kuini Waqasavou is an information officer with the Ministry of Primary Industries.