Thursday, May 22, 2014

Organic Agriculture in Jamaica

Farmer-to-Farmer recently sent volunteer Tony Kleese to work on an organic farm production and budgeting assignment in St. Thomas, Jamaica. This project was completed in collaboration with our partner FAVACA. Below are excerpts from Tony's trip report: 

“Historically, St. Thomas is a farming parish, and the people still rely on small cash crops and tree crop production for their livelihood. While the demand for organic crops has expanded rapidly over the past 20 years in developed nations, Jamaica is just beginning to see significant on-island demand. The Source Farm Foundation (SFF) has been working for the past two years to provide training in permaculture, organic farming, crop budgeting, and markets, with the intention of launching a fair and transparent marketing and distribution system for moving organic produce into local markets that are seeking it.

The purpose of this assignment was to train the producers in innovative design and production strategies that will provide solid yields and improve the soil biology and biodiversity of the land they farm. Working with farmers and extensionists in St Thomas, I was able to develop an excel spreadsheet for an organic demonstration plot that included:
  • Ten year cash flow budget
  • Crop plan for nine crops
  • Three year crop rotation
  • Enterprise plans for nine crops
  • Equipment and irrigation planning tools
  • Overhead budget
  • Yield and spacing chart

Breaking ground on the new organic demonstration site
Farm leaders were trained in its use and the demonstration plot was prepared for planting. There is also enough seed available to plant this crop plan. The changes that I anticipate that they will experience are:
  • A better understanding of organic production practices including crop rotation and soil building through cover crops
  • Increased income from the sale of organic crops and a better understanding of the strong market potential
  • Improvement in farm management and profitability through the use of crop planning and budgeting tools

Demand for local and organic produce continues to grow. Evidence of this is the strong response to the new Ujima farmers market in Kingston and numerous references in the media. Farmers and extensionists have been trained and organic certification is understood although not readily accessible. The main issues to be addressed are production coordination, organic certification, and distribution. In the case of some farmers, the lack of clarity about their land leases creates a landscape of uncertainty for all parties."

Meeting with growers participating in organic production project
Some of Tony’s recommendations for the future of this project include: an analysis of the local and organic market, organizational and capacity-building trainings for the grower groups, alternative financial resources such as debt relief or restructuring to challenge farmers to invest in new ventures, and organic soil and pest management plans.

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