Grad profile: From a family farm in the Caribbean to a new future in agriculture

Shawn Francis, Faculty of Agriculture

- May 12, 2017

Faculty of Agriculture graduate Shawn Francis. (Nick Pearce photo)
Faculty of Agriculture graduate Shawn Francis. (Nick Pearce photo)

This article is part of a series on graduates of Spring Convocation 2017. Read more grad profiles or, to learn more about the ceremonies, visit the Convocation website.

Shawn Francis was at home working on his family farm the day he first learned about Dalhousie University and its Faculty of Agriculture. A team of Dalhousie personnel were visiting the farm through their collaboration with the Dominica State College.

Now, three years, thousands of miles and a completely different culture later, Shawn is set to graduate from with a Bachelor of Science degree majoring in Agricultural Business.

“Deciding to come to Dal AC was one of the best decisions I’ve made towards my future,” says Shawn.

A family affair

Shawn was born on a small island in the West Indies called Dominica. He grew up working on his family farm, an agro-tourism business called D-Smart Farm. The business, which has been in his family for 13 years, is a recreational facility, campground site, and organic farm that promotes sustainable living. Animals on the farm include, chickens, goats, dogs, rabbits and lots of birds, including the Jaco parrots which fly over the farm and agouti sightings are frequent.

The farm also grows vegetables like lettuce, cabbages, broccoli, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes and more — and attracts a wide range of visitors.

Children take a tour of D-Smart Farm.

“A lot of guests come to enjoy farm tours, biodiversity, camping, local cuisine and more,” says Shawn. “Many people come from North America and Europe.”

The farm also offers local programs on organic farming, traditional foods, different methods of farming and much more, as well as educational programs for children.

“The ultimate goals are to increase awareness of not only the business and what we do but in sustainable and organic farming practices,” says Shawn. “The business runs non-profitable projects that focus on educating local youth on farming practices and sustainable agriculture. We would love to increase awareness of local, regional and international guests on this vision.”

Finding his opportunity

Working on the farm gave Shawn a keen interest in agriculture and marketing and production of agricultural products, but he still wasn’t sure how to turn it into a career of his own.

“I thought about multiple programs under agriculture and none of them seemed to fit my interest,” he said. “I was always interested in project management and this allowed me to choose agriculture business as my major because it relates to it a bit.”

Shawn began his studies at Dominica State College, completing an associate’s degree and, needing to go elsewhere to complete a degree, he transferred to Dalhousie.

Alongside his studies, Shawn has been a player on the Dal AC soccer team for three years and plays recreational basketball. He is also involved with the Global Students Community, a club that allows international students to get more involved in activities in Canada, make friends, learn about Canadian culture and share their culture with others.

“I love this university,” Shawn says. “I came here to further my education and wanted to travel a bit and gain new experiences. I’m happy to say I’ve been able to do all that and more.”

Onwards and upwards

Set to graduate this May, Shawn says he’ll attend his convocation ceremony with his head held high knowing how great his accomplishments have been. After graduation, he plans to stay at Dal, heading to Halifax to complete his MBA.

“This is just a stepping stone to what I want to accomplish,” Shawn explains. “I’m interested in agriculture innovation and processing. Ultimately I want individuals from my country to see that agricultural studies are diverse and there are a variety of fields one can get into.

“This is a fantastic campus and a serious student can gain a lot from coming here. For me, this school was a blessing and my three years here will be remembered. After my MBA, the sky’s the limit!”

This article is part of a series highlighting the graduates of Spring Convocation 2017. It has been adapted from the Faculty of Agriculture website. Learn more about Convocation ceremonies at the Convocation website.

Read more Agriculture grad profiles


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