Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Jamaica Vegetable Production Project

Partners’ Farmer to Farmer Program has been providing Santoy Cooperative in Jamaica with volunteer technical assistance since 2003. A range of volunteers have helped the vegetable producers, from plant pathologists and irrigation engineers to graphic designers and marketing specialists. One team of volunteers has been especially invested in supporting Santoy and helping them to improve the quantity and quality of their production. The team members are the following: Dr. Tom Evans, Professor of Plant Pathology at University of Delaware; Dr. Wallace Pill, Professor Emeritus of Horticulture at University of Delaware; Dr. Cliff Keil, Professor of Entomology at Pontificia Universidad Catolica in Ecuador and Dr. Ian McCann, Agricultural Engineering Consultant. Partners’ Farmer to Farmer Program is extremely gracious and proud of the work that has been accomplished between the volunteers and Santoy. 

Farmer to Farmer volunteers with Jamaican counterparts.
Please read below the latest update on the Jamaica Vegetable Production Project (written by Dr. Evans, Dr. Keil and Dr. Pill): 

The Santoy Cooperative (hereafter Santoy) is one of the best producers of a wide range of field and greenhouse grown vegetables in Jamaica. However, there are several impediments to direct sales of vegetables by Santoy to resorts and high-end restaurants in Jamaica. We believe that the lack of unique, high quality products grown locally and available continuously throughout the year has been one of these impediments. Without such products Santoy has not yet penetrated this direct sales market which is much more lucrative than the secondary market; that being, selling to brokers or supermarkets. Our approach over the past year has been to support the development of a production system to deliver such products; microgreens and sprouts.

 In January 2011, we re-started the microgreens and sprouts project and determined its feasibility. Additionally, we re-branded Santoy as a custom grower of vegetables and tropical fruits and supported their sales and marketing program. During this trip, Drs. Evans and Keil carried out much of the initial work for pesticide evaluation field-trial in scotch bonnet peppers and did initial assessment of Santoy’s ability to move forward on the production and marketing of microgreens and sprouts. Over the five years we have been working in Jamaica we have routinely attempted to make linkages with Jamaican researchers both in academia (University of the West Indies-Kingston) and government (Ministry of Agriculture) to further the objectives of the Farmer to Farmer vegetable production and marketing project. During our trip in January, Drs. Evans and Keil held the first such meeting. We met with most of the researchers working in areas related to agricultural plant health (plant pathology, entomology, horticulture). This meeting took place at the Ministry of Agricultures Bodles Research Station near Spanish Town in St. Catherine Parish. The meeting resulted in an agreement by all to collaborate on a number of projects of mutual interest and importance to the researchers and to Jamaican agriculture and to seek funds to support this work. This is a significant accomplishment for the team and the FTF program in that it ensures future collaborations with Jamaican scientists. 

By the end of our trip in January, Santoy was extremely close to a breakthrough in accessing the direct sales market. However, much work was left undone with regard to the scale-up of microgreens and sprouts. A request was made to FTF to support the trip of Dr. Pill once Santoy had substantially completed the needed infrastructure improvements for a new specialty crops production facility. During late January and early February Drs. Evans and Pill stayed in close contact with Mr. Murdock and Santoy by phone and e-mail and continued to support his planning and development efforts. We made initial production cost estimates for a wide range of microgreens, sprouts and edible flowers. We also produced a modified logo for Santoy that included Mr. Murdock’s name and phone number. Sticky labels printed with this logo were produced in two sizes for use on packaging. Business cards using this logo were also designed and produced (see attachments at end of report). These were transported to Mr. Murdock on the subsequent trip by Dr. Pill. At the request of Santoy, we facilitated their purchase of seed for many of these crops from U.S. sources. In late February, Dr. Pill traveled to Hanover, Jamaica to support the new specialty crop production facility at Santoy.”

Building Friendships and Life-Long Collaboration

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