* Photo supplied. Proud owner: Mr. Amaral mans a magnificent May 24 stall.
* Photo supplied. Proud owner: Mr. Amaral mans a magnificent May 24 stall.
"If you never plant it, you'll never eat it."

This was a favourite expression of local farming "great" Jose 'Joe' Amaral, 84, who died last week of a degenerative heart condition.

The local farming community paid tribute to the father-of-five at his funeral service on Saturday by lining up a row of tractors in a nearby field as the hearse passed by.

Mr. Amaral's son Carlos Amaral said farming was always a lifestyle, rather than a job, for his father.

"The best way to describe him was that he was not a man of many words - except when it came to gardening, which was his real passion," Mr. Amaral said.

"I was always amazed by his resilience and optimism. When bad weather, disease or pests ravaged the crops unexpectedly, he would simply say, 'Plough it up, let's plant again'.

"He taught me to be a man, take your licks when you have to, be man enough to stand up for what you believe, humble enough to admit when you are wrong, and more importantly, to brush the dirt off and plant again."

Taking a chance

Seven years ago Joe Amaral was diagnosed with a heart condition that had left him with three blocked arteries and a leaking valve.

The doctors told him that if he had the operation to "fix" his heart, there was only a 15 per cent chance he would survive the operation itself.

"My father took his chances and lived for seven more years," his son said. "He worked right up until the end.

"A week before he died he was busy tending to a young fruit tree. Someone said to him, 'why are you bothering - you won't be here to eat it'.

"He replied that if he didn't plant it, then his children and grandchildren wouldn't be able to enjoy it after he was gone.

"That was just the kind of person he was."

Farming was way of life he instilled into his sons Carlos and Tony, who helped Mr. Amaral - who is originally from San Miguel, Azores - run their family farm and roadside produce stand on Middle Road, Devonshire.

Agricultural officer for the department of conservation Thomas Sinclair has known Mr. Amaral for the last 26 years and says he was a "happy, pleasant person" who was always very proud of his Portuguese heritage.

"He was one of those old-school farmers - he knew just from experience and trial and error when to plant and what to plant," Mr. Sinclair explained. "Over the years he has encouraged his sons Tony and Carlos to follow on in his footsteps.

"He was proud to be a farmer.

"When he told you something about farming - if you listened really closely - there would always be an underlying life lesson. He wasn't just talking about gardening.

"You always left his company knowing a little more than you arrived with."

Vast array

Mr. Amaral has grown a vast array of crops and flowers over the years, from Snapdragons to Easter Lilies to papaws, plums, peaches and tomatoes.

"His farm is called Bleak Farm - but it is anything but bleak," Mr. Sinclair said. "It was always full of flowers and vegetables."

The funeral for Mr. Amaral was held at St. Patrick's Church in Smiths on Saturday.

"It's a huge loss because many local farmers are in their senior years and to lose a farmer like Joe is really tough - we are losing all that knowledge and experience with one of the great stalwarts passing on," Mr. Sinclair said. "Joe was also just one heck of a nice person."

The life of Jose Amaral

* Jose Amaral was born in San Miguel, Azores as the third child of 10.

* At the age of 12 he completed his schooling to continue working the family fields.

* In 1946 he served for two years as a corporal in the Portuguese Army, responsible for sending Morse code messages.

* In 1949, he met Fernandina Tavares Gouveia Sousa and they courted for six years before they married.

* He arrived in Bermuda in 1952 to work for his cousin Frank Amaral.

* His job entailed felling diseased cedar trees as a result of the island wide blight.

* In 1955 Jose worked for the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries as a farm tractor operator, responsible for ploughing fields from Dockyard to St. David's.

* In 1957 Jose went to Ontario, Canada, to work on a tobacco farm, not taking to the harsh Canadian winter, he returned to Bermuda within five months.

* In 1960, Mr. Russell Eve invited Jose to be employed as his private gardener. Jose took to farming a small vegetable garden for Mr. Eve.

* On Christmas Eve, 1962 Jose started a vegetable market by the roadside on Middle Road, Devonshire.

* In 1967, Jose obtained Bermuda Status and purchased 'Bleak Farm', where he and his wife raised five children.