One woman stamping her mark in a department traditionally dominated by males is Milagro Heredia, the landscaping manager at Sandal Grande Saint Lucian Spa & Beach Resort. Milagro easily stands out, her beautiful Trinidadian accent is hard to miss amidst the galaxy of Caribbean stars that adorn Sandals Resorts all over the region. In fact, you could say her journey into the field of agribusiness was pre-determined.
“My parents both have a background in agribusiness. They actually met in agribusiness school in Venezuela. My mom is a plant quarantine officer and my dad is a landscaper. My grandparents were also involved in the industry as cocoa farmers. As a young person I was surrounded by agriculture, so it was somewhat inevitable that I would gravitate to that field. Of course, I was accepted into agribusiness school and opted to study at UWI St Augustine in Trinidad from 2013 – 2016.”
Milagro laments the fact however, that not many young people seem interested in agribusiness. She confesses that this is no longer a common field of study. However, she double majored in tropical landscaping and agribusiness and was able to finish in three years, supplementing over the summer to accelerate her progress. “The whole experience was great, culminating in an internship at a Barbadian company. This cemented my career in landscaping.” Milagro speaks fondly of the experience as she learned practical skills, and was able to finally embrace true independence.
On completion of her first degree, Milagro went on to complete an Executive Master’s in Project Management from 2018-2021. This was a rigorous programme, she recalls, working full time during the day and attending school after-hours. She says this prepared her for maintenance in landscaping, installation, maintenance/design and budgeting.
She acknowledges that the team at Sandals is very respectful and they have adjusted well to her in the role. They respect my knowledge and guidance, and sometimes I even find that I do have to play the mother role. They feel the love and the discipline from me.”
Her advice to young people is simple, “agriculture is attractive.” Having said this, she recounts that the agri-faculty had the lowest attendance on campus while she was there. “I almost think people have not understood that we will need food in the next 5-10 years. Mechanization has to be the answer and throughout the Caribbean there has to be a mindset shift away from the traditional approach to agriculture and agribusiness. Sandals has certainly helped, as the company remains on the forefront of linking agriculture to the business of tourism in a structured way.”
On a personal note, she says, “the Sandals brand is growing and I am excited to be a part of that future.” The possibilities are indeed endless for this daughter of the soil.