Abaco resident and life-long farmer Ricky Albury hopes he can finally sell his five-and-a-half acre property that housed residents in Pigeon Peas, a shantytown that was flattened by catastrophic Hurricane Dorian three weeks ago.
Albury said in 2010 he attempted to remove hundreds of Haitians and Bahamians living on his property in Pigeon Peas, but nothing ever came of it.
He said government representatives told him he could not do anything with his property until the government found somewhere for those shantytown residents to live, but it never did, and the community grew.
“They just keep building and building. We tried to stop them… but I couldn’t fight a couple thousand people,” he explained as he chuckled.
“I had death threats put on me and all. That’s been some years ago.”
Now, Pigeon Peas is gone; its residents scattered.
Minister of State for Disaster Preparedness, Management and Reconstruction Iram Lewis indicated Monday that cleanup efforts for The Mudd, a larger neighboring shantytown owned by the government, and the Pigeon Peas will begin next month.
According to former Central and South Abaco MP Edison Key, Scott and Matson (S&M) Farms brought in 1,000 Haitian workers to gather crops such as tomatoes, cucumbers and pineapples during the 1950s.
Key said when that company closed down, the Haitians started working for local farmers. Those who remained started what is now Pigeon Peas in the 1970s, according to Key, with The Mudd sprouting up later.
Albury said his farm, Albury and Son, employed 30 people living in Pigeon Peas.
Those employees picked bananas, mangoes, limes and lemons, managed livestock and cleaned up.
Albury, who has also been coping with losing the majority of his farm in the storm, said he has only been able to contact three of his workers.
He said that he believes a lot of them left the island after the storm.
“I want to keep my farm,” he said, “but it doesn’t look like anything can be in Abaco for quite a few years. Abaco looks like it got hit with an atomic bomb.”
Albury, who said he is the largest hog farmer in The Bahamas, said he lost over 3,000 hogs during the storm.
He said his workers told him there were only 25 to 30 hogs left on the farm.
He said that farming has been a part of his family for generations.
“Farming has been my passion all my life. My great-grandfather was a farmer, my grandfather was a farmer, my dad was a farmer and I’m a farmer. It’s all I know,” he said.
“Everything is gone. Things that took me 40 years to get is gone.”
Along with his livestock, Albury said he lost all of his farming equipment, three tractors and several fruit trees, leaving him no choice but to rebuild his business from scratch.
He said it is going to be a long recovery for Abaco as almost every business and home on the island is damaged.
He said he anticipates that the damage will easily cost him up to one million dollars.
“Everything I ever worked for was put into the farm. Then something like this comes and just takes it away,” he said.
“You know, I went through [Hurricane] Jean and [Hurricane] Floyd, but I’ve never been through anything like this. They were jokes to this.”
Albury said he’s currently in Spanish Wells, Eleuthera, recovering from storm-related injuries and health complications.
He said during the storm, eight feet of seawater ran through his Marsh Harbour home, and he nearly drowned.
“I still don’t feel 100 percent. I still have a few sores that are taking some time to heal,” he said.
“I have a lung infection and everything, you know. I’m just trying to recover.”