Student Stories: International ag grad takes on Caribbean farm

January 05, 2011

For now, Timothy Silberg has chosen making memories over making money.

Recently the Bucks County, Pa., native had to decide between what he saw as cushy jobs with Tyson Foods or the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or embarking on a journey to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to be the sole manager of a farm.

It was a tough decision for Silberg, who graduated from the College of Agricultural Sciences in May 2009 with a degree in agricultural science and a minor in international agriculture.

"Although I feared leaving home for such a lengthy period and traveling to a culture that is the polar opposite of ours, a friend persuaded me, saying, 'You have to leave the ground to learn to fly,'" he recalled.

"But the farm-manager job appealed to me because it gave me the freedom to develop a farm based on what I wanted to do. The salary was not great, but the opportunity to gain so much experience at such an early stage in my life was attractive."

Already familiar with Caribbean agriculture from an internship in Puerto Rico, he relished the opportunity. However, the internship in Puerto Rico and the job as full-time manager of a farm would have very different responsibilities.

"My job requires a lot of me because I am the one who has to report to investors, manage my workers and the plants and also be responsible for the financial direction of the farm," he said. "It's a 24/7 responsibility, and sometimes I wish I just had a 9 to 5 job," he said.

Nonetheless, at the end of the day Silberg is able to take a step back and appreciate all the hard work he and his workers put in. "It's rewarding -- in rural agriculture much of what is accomplished is done by hand," he said.

"When you complete a project such as raising beds, which requires you to cut bamboo with a machete, drag it up the 45-degree hillside and pound it in with a sledgehammer, you stand back and get to look at the finished project.

"I get a lot of enjoyment from this because I don't have to deal with fluctuating market prices or financing -- it's just my workers, the land and me."

  • Timothy Silberg at the farm he manages at Saint Vincent in the Grenadines.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated May 20, 2011