Friday, March 23, 2012

Volunteer Spotlight: Pete Wotowiec Plays Key Role in the Development of Greenhouse Hydroponics in Jamaica and Guyana

Through his completion of 6 Farmer to Farmer (FTF) assignments with Partners of the Americas to date, Peter Wotowiec of Pikesville, Tennessee, has played a major role in the development of greenhouse hydroponics in Jamaica and Guyana.
Pete conducting a pH test on plant medium at Mar Friends

From October 2006 through August 2009, Pete made 3 visits to Jamaica with Partners of the Americas to work with The Heart Trust/NTA Ebony Park Academy. This residential academy provides agricultural training and certification and serves as a demonstration site where farmers learn and practice advanced farming techniques. Pete’s first visit to Ebony Park in the fall of 2006 focused on introducing the concept of greenhouse technology to the public and to faculty. He facilitated entry-level trainings in greenhouse and hydroponics systems design and management. In November 2007, Pete returned with Dr. Ted Carey of Kansas State University to determine the technical training needs of local greenhouse producers, develop a technical manual on Managed Environment Agriculture, and lead a seminar on greenhouse production and hydroponics. The highlight of Pete’s last visit to Ebony Park Academy in August 2009 was a 3-day seminar on starting and operating a greenhouse business for interested professionals and the general public.

Pete Wotowiec working with local Guyanese producers in
October 2011.
Between October 2006 and August 2009, Pete trained 194 Jamaican men and women in greenhouse agriculture and hydroponics. During this nearly 3-year span, Jamaica’s greenhouse industry saw the development of at least 2 grower cooperatives, and by 2009, input materials were locally available.

In addition to his work in Jamaica, Pete has also completed 3 FTF assignments in Guyana focused on shadehouse hydroponics. In January 2007, Pete first introduced a low-cost can/bag production system to Mar Friends Land Farmers Cooperative and the Hopetown Farmers Cooperative. Together, they designed the system, successfully sourced local components, identified a local source of affordable fertilizer, and began setting up the can/bag system components. In June 2010, Pete returned to provide training in business principles, record-keeping, greenhouse structures, and fundamental crop culture. During this time, he visited and provided recommendations for improving production to 6 greenhouse sites. Pete’s most recent visit in October 2011 included visits to growers, potential growers, and home-based operator sites to discuss production issues and promote greenhouse production, a workshop on plant science and best practices in shadehouse hydroponics construction and production, and a workshop for growers focusing on greenhouse design, pest management, fertilizers and watering.

Pete’s work in Guyana has directly benefitted 122 individuals, while 53 individuals have received training. From January 2007 – October 2011, 36 commercial hydroponics shade houses were in or about to be in production, and “home-based production” was introduced to smaller plots to encourage family vegetable production and consumption.

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