Sun | Dec 11, 2016

Portland farm puts faith in agri-tourism

Published:Sunday | January 11, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Sections of the 36-acre Restoration Village Farm at Tom's Hope, Portland.
Sections of the 36-acre Restoration Village Farm at Tom's Hope, Portland.
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Tameka Gordon, Business Reporter

The owners of a farm in Tom's Hope, Portland, are looking to cash in on the agri-tourism market through a farm tour of their 36- acre property that benefits charity.

Restoration Village Farm, which is owned by Trevor and Jean Campbell, introduced its tours last September, charging $1,600 for adults and $1,100 for children.

The tour comprises a hike through the winding hillside trails of the farm, a wading pool for hikers to cool off, and lunch. Guests are also given packages of produce cultivated on the farm.

With manual labour purposefully used to complete all the planting and reaping on the farm to maintain an eco-friendly environment, the Campbells say the agri-tourism project was implemented after friends and a few visitors kept asking to be shown around the 36-acre property.

"Because it's so pretty, people who came up there kept saying that we need to have tours. They would always say how beautiful it is and encourage us to have guided tours," said Trevor.

Restoration Village was not created for profit, but is a philanthropic venture developed by the Campbells as a source of food for the Kingston-based Operation Restoration Christian School (ORCS) and a source of jobs for the deep rural Portland community.

"We are doing this from a Christian perspective. We have a company, but it is not designed to really bring profit. It is more designed to provide employment in the Tom's Hope area and to spread the word of God," Trevor told Sunday Business.

Trevor is
originally from Old Harbour, St Catherine, and was educated at St Jago
before migrating to the United States, where he met and married Jean, a
New Yorker.

The couple resides
overseas.

Restoration Farm sits about five miles south
of Port Antonio at the foot of the John Crow Mountains. Thirty-one
acres of the land belong to the Campbells; the other five acres are
leased.

Cash crops such as bananas, plantain, dasheen,
cocoa, pineapple, yams, among others, are cultivated with the bananas,
plantains, and dasheen sold to local exporters.

"We
also sell the cocoa to the Cocoa Board," Trevor said, adding that some
produce was also sold in the local markets.

The
Campbells spent US$200,000 of their own funds to set up Restoration
Village, but are yet to reap any returns from the venture. Its expenses
are offset by their other business, Trevor said.

"We
are not making any money from the farm now because it's not even
breaking even. We are supporting the farm until it starts to break
even." The Campbells expect the property to start turning a profit in
two to three years.

The couple also owns Plato
Consulting Inc, a Virginia-based information technology firm that
specialises in developing customised application software for government
agencies in the environmental business.

Restoration
Village has had visitors from The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and
the United States, as well as locals who have also sought out the
property for a little solace from the bustle of their everyday lives,
said Trevor.

A vacation Bible school is hosted there
in the summer.

The three-year-old farm donates ground
provisions and vegetables twice monthly to the ORCS in Trench Town,
which is a remedial learning centre for out-of-school
youth.

"For a number of years, we were supporting the
ORCS, which helps to get the children off the street. My wife and I had a
dream of owning property in Jamaica. She had a dream of a property with
a stream running through it, and I had a dream of a farm," Trevor
said.

Restoration Village fit the bill for both of
them, he added.

Aside from the food, the students of
ORCS get to tour the property for free, both for exposure to agriculture
and to familiarise them with places outside of Kingston, according to
Trevor, who says it helps to keep the children
grounded.

The farm has 10 tour guides, who were
trained by the Tourism Product Development
Company.

The property is taking steps to be licensed
by the Jamaica Tourist Board.

"There are plans to get
the farm to a place where at least we are breaking even. Any profit that
we have will be reinvested into the farm or community or probably
employ more people," Trevor said.

Other plans for
Restoration Village include the manufacture of chocolate bars, which
will require investment in a fermenting and drying
facility.

"We want to make sure that the things that
we are doing right now are working and we can see where we are going to
break even. Then, we want to make the chocolate," he
said.

Eventually, the farm will also produce coconut
oil.

tameka.gordon@gleanerjm.com