Jade Lee and Her Little Orchard Farm
Bingy slinging rocks. Canine love Chloe, children and children at heart at play. Generously lush greenery and ambrosial aromas of smoking goodness permeating the fresh air: that was the atmosphere when the Gleaner Lifestyle team visited the Little Orchard Farm in Linstead two Sundays ago.
Owner Jade Lee, in association with Nutramix, warmly welcomed us to her Little Orchard Farm. Lee might be familiar to you as an entertainment guru, having dominated in that field of expertise for over 20 years. But she shared that she gave up all the glitz and the glam for peace of spirit and peace of mind.
"When I was in entertainment, so many people, young ones from all walks of life in Jamaica, wanted to do music. Now, there's nothing wrong with music, and I wouldn't discourage anyone to do it. But I didn't see a balance. I saw a trend happening that was frightening. Who was going to be the one to take the bull by the horns and change to the story? I wanted to be voice of change," she explained to Flair. So, she gave up her career, went back home to what was a citrus orchard, and decided to become a farmer.
Everything requires a farm, she explained, from crops to clothing. She understands the importance of impacting knowledge and passion to the younger Jamaican and in doing so, preserve our culture. It was there that she returned to her roots and began planting. "Why wasn't anyone saying that they wanted to be a farmer? They think being a farmer is derogatory. You can be an upstanding citizen and provide crops for the masses. Why can't I wear water boots and lip gloss? Get my hands dirty and still get a manicure? I wanted to show people that you could be a farmer, play an active role in agriculture and be beautiful," Lee added.
Four years in the making, The Farm at Little Orchard now comprises both animal livestock and organic produce. The journey, she says, was very hard, since it was a learning curve for her, because she knew nothing about farming. She revealed, however, that she likes knowledge and will learn just about everything, so the fruits of her labour have been most rewarding. She pushes forward as a work in progress.
Bringing some sparkle to the mix, she aspires to highlight the fusion of farming with hospitality, "People from all over the world want to escape to Little Orchard Farms. They don't want Internet to contaminate them. They want to be immersed in a holistic experience. Drink some coconut water, eat some free-range chicken and duck and callaloo, and just relax. That's why we're putting plans in place to construct some cabins nestled on oasis section of the property, creating the ultimate agro-tourism product on how to live holistically, from the earth and be tranquil."
So far, winning champion female farmer for Jamaica at Denbigh 2016 has been the most noteworthy experience of her career in agriculture because she had only been farming for a year and a half, "It was a great feeling and I felt rewarded for my hard work," she said.
So how does she stay motivated? Her workaholic tendencies and the love and support she receives from her mother and children, "They are very involved and they continue to inspire me to be great," expressed the mother of four. The bubbly, energetic Lee, grew sombre when she spoke of her father who had been shot and killed in Linstead 10 years ago. She noted that he would be proud of her.
Outside of Little Orchard Farm, she owns a guesthouse in Kingston called One32; Armbands Plus, that prints tickets for events, armbands for clubs, events, venues, and bands for hospitals.
She is also into construction: Jade Lee Construction. She laughed, reflecting on the fact that she genuinely enjoys working - being productive brings her peace. She is into philanthropy and has an affinity for giving back to the children in Jamaica - that is the only way we're going to change Jamaica, she declares. She also loves to cook.
Her advice to up-and-coming female farmers, "Start small. Perfect the craft and enjoy the growth of whatever you do, whether it's the animal sector or planting crops. Perfect that and build from there, or else, you will get overwhelmed and consequently discouraged."
Of course, what's a farm tour without a little touring? The team and I trekked the beautiful property with Lee, learning of orchard apples, Fhia bananas (used by Little Orchard Farm to supply Chippies), moringa, the Rio magna tree, plans to import bamboo indigenous to Bali, lakatan, robusta and gros michel bananas. Until we reached untapped soil and tapped in the majesty of Sherwood Forest. The pond with turtles opened the gateway to cool forestry. Built for comfort, not speed, the pack went ahead, but I took my own sweet time in exploring its wonders. One misstep in muddy waters and I saw myself heading for a fall, until my trusted friend came to my rescue. I could've felt defeated, but instead, I felt empowered to catch up to my empowered women and complete my mission.