Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Ujima natural produce market an option

Published:Wednesday | February 25, 2015 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Williams
A range of natural products including laundry soap and fabric softener from Cory Breniesen's Rae Studios in John's Town, St Thomas.
Freshly picked, sweet strawberries from Fitzroy Mais' farm at Content, St Andrew.
Julie Chin of White Hall Farm in St Thomas is a regular vendor at the Ujima Natural Farmers' Market at 22 Barbican Road, St Andrew.
Cheryl Holdworth's butter products made of seeds and nuts.
Carol Miller of St Andrew demonstrates how she was going to bite into this natural ingredients bread baked by the Bread Lady of John's Town, St Thomas.
Natural lip balms and deodorants from Durgas Den Farm in St Ann.
Fresh vegetable and greens from Durgas Den Farm in St Ann.
From left: Romario Powell, Dwight Shirley, of The Source Farm, and patron Mickeela Brown enjoying coconut chips produced by The Source Farm in St Thomas.
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With the prevalence of lifestyle diseases that lead to death, more and more people are turning to healthier living, including ingesting food that is not processed or nourished by synthetic chemicals.

Free organic or clean food is now the food of choice for many people, but finding a place where such is sold can be a challenge.

However, for Kingstonians, it is now not so challenging. For a while now, there has been the UJIMA Natural Farmers' Market, held every second and fourth Saturday at 22 Barbican Road, where under the theme, 'Feeding Your Mind, Body and Soul', clean food farmers from different parts of Jamaica come together to offer fresh produce, and fruit juices.

The fresh produce, including ground provisions, fruits and vegetable, are from the fields of St Thomas farmers. The term natural is used, because no manmade chemicals were used in the cultivation of the crops. In addition to foodstuff, there are naturally dyed fabric, natural ingredients skin and hair products, costume jewellery and artwork made of seeds and other natural materials.

The market is an extension of Source Farm's 'One One Coco Project' in which farmers goes through an intensive training programme, after which they apply what they have learnt in their own fields.

The farmers' market gives them an opportunity to sell their natural produce.

According to Nicola Phillips of St Thomas' Source Farm Foundation and Ecovillage, the organisers of the market, the objective of the One One Coco project is manifold. First, there is the matter of meeting the growing demand for clean food. "We need more farmers growing items using less costly inputs such as fertilisers and chemical," she said.

"For years people who have health issues have been seeking a place where they can find clean food (fertiliser and pesticide free). The market will create a place for people to come and get access to items that sustain a healthy lifestyle," Phillips told Hospitality Jamaica.

Then there is food security. With more farmers, there is more food security on the island she argued, "We import over one billion US dollars worth of food items into Jamaica, and only export 275 million according to the Ministry of Agriculture. This is not a sustainable practice especially when we have a 12-month growing season."

There is also the need to transfer knowledge from old to young farmers, thereby creating employment for the youths. Phillip said the project is a "great strategy for getting young people on the land doing productive work that will earn them a good livelihood. Selling directly at the market gives them a retail sale price for their items.

"If they sell it to Coronation Market, for example, they will only sell something for $20-30 per pound, and if they sell directly to the customer they will get the full value which is often twice the amount. Farming in Jamaica is the only place where the farmer pays retail for their inputs and sell back items less than wholesale. How can we get anyone to go into farming using that unfair methodology?" Phillips asked.