Jamaica and Organic Farming
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When we think of Jamaica, we tend to picture fresh fruits languishing effortlessly from the trees, abundant vegetable patches dotting the landscape of this paradise. We expect organic farming to be the norm in Jamaica. Sadly, that isn’t really the case. On most farms, “conventional” farming methods rule the day, and, understandably, too.
As even the most casual grower abroad learns during the hot summer months, warm, moist environments lay out the welcome mat to multiple unwanted guests. No, it isn’t your mother-in-law we are talking about here, it’s pests. Real, live bugs and fungi. Give them that environment year round, as in the tropics, and it’s a veritable smorgasbord. That’s where the chemicals come in. But is that the only way?
Enter Keith and Sandra Wedderburn of Bluefields Organic Fruit Farm (click here). Located in Bluefields, Westmoreland Parish, Jamaica, they are working hard to prove, to themselves and other farmers, that, even in the tropics, fruit can be grown without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. They are constantly dreaming up less destructive ways to manage “nature” and still manage to get profitable yields from their farm.
When it all began three years ago, looking like merely a hillside jungle for sale, one would have thought it might be better put to use as a zip-line park rather than an organic farm. The tangled mess was ignored by most that passed by, but Keith and Sandra saw something else…potential. Four years later, their idea of organic farming is producing the fruits of their very hard labor, in an amazing array of colors, tastes and textures.
I had the pleasure of seeing the farm for myself recently and left stunned at what I had gotten to experience.
From the moment Keith, a friendly, yet serious professional, greeted our group, we knew we were in for a treat. Little did we know that not only would our minds be stimulated but so would our taste buds.
Keith started the tour by letting us inside the barbed wired fences. These fences also serve to safely contain the farm’s small herd of sheep and goats who have the job of mowing the grass, keeping the weeds down and “fertilizing” it all during their rotations within.
We immediately stood face to face with an incredible array of different fruit trees, including some that we were familiar with, like bananas and mangoes, and many that we had never seen growing before, like star fruit and custard apples.
One by one, our well-spoken guide walked us through the trees, explaining how to identify them, giving us a little history on the particular planting and letting us try the fruits available.
We experienced a tantalizing array of textures and flavors. From the sweet, juicy texture of oranges, to the tart, mouth-tingling, pucker-you-up guava, we tasted everything he had on the trees that day. I was shocked at the variety offered because I really hadn’t seen much more than oranges, bananas and a few coconuts at the roadside stands we had passed in our travels. It was a very pleasant surprise.
All in all, Bluefields Organic Farm (click here) has over 36 types of fruit at differing stages of development. Keep in mind that it takes a baby fruit tree at least three years to bear its first offspring, and you get a sense for the labor of love this project has been for Keith, previously an IT guy, and Sandra, a professional masseuse. Although a humble man, Keith’s pride and passion was clear as he spoke about “his babies,” the fruit.
I learned a lot that day.
Did you know that a banana tree only bears bananas ONE TIME and then the trunk that grew the fruit is cut down? Did you know that a single coconut palm (a member of the palm tree family) can produce from 40 to 75 coconuts per year? Did you know that lemon grass can be crumbled up and rubbed on the skin to ward off mosquito bites? (Yes, I know that last one isn’t a fruit, but they also grow vegetables and herbs at the farm!)
But wait, there’s MORE! I got a sneak peek at the next phase of the farm. A few months from now, you will be able to book beautifully appointed accommodations in their newly constructed, mountaintop guesthouse right on the farm.
Keith and Sandra have done such an incredible job of designing the guesthouse and have used such luxurious materials, that I came home from there and immediately began researching a refurbishment of my own home. It was simply stunning!
The vast view of the sea, for miles around, is breathtaking, and totally unexpected from the street. You will get the opportunity to sit on your private veranda for coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening and just soak it all in. Exemplifying the healthy lifestyle that “is” the farm, you can even book a professional massage by Sandra and let go of all of your cares.
The tour, by appointment only, costs about $15 per person, worth it’s weight in fruit, and runs about an hour. Young or old, I’d highly recommend making the trip to the scenic town of Bluefields from Negril, Whitehouse, or anywhere, really, and visiting the farm. You won’t be disappointed. Tell my friend, Keith, that I said “Hello!”
To read about other interesting places we’ve checked out for you, click here.