Mon | Aug 21, 2017

From Corporate Offices to Cassava Fields

Published:Friday | April 22, 2016 | 4:00 AMJanelle Oswald
This member of staff shows a co-worker how it is to be done.
Red Stripe staff members drag cassava planting material through the neatly prepared furrows.
Red Stripe Cassava Planting Day saw these two staff members doing the hard work.
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A fleet of buses left Spanish Town Road to visit a St Catherine farm to learn about the 'green side' of business.

Red Stripe employees travelled to Wallen Cassava Farms, part of an employee-engagement initiative to advance staff members' knowledge and further their involvement around the sowing, planting, and harvesting of the new secret ingredient in Jamaica's number one beer: cassava.

Project Grow represents Red Stripe's biggest push to develop a sustainable manufacturing process, which includes both private sector and government collaboration through a lease agreement for the land acquisition and developing a cassava cultivation best practice with the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI).

An inspiring dirt-digging day, Senior Communication Manager Levaughn Flynn told The Gleaner, "An initiative like this fulfils two roles for Red Stripe: employment engagement and corporate communications sharing with the public, and we are very proud to be trailblazers."

THE INSPIRATION

Flynn continued: "This is the first of its kind in the number of staff involved and the level of excitement. The inspiration behind Project Grow came about because Red Stripe felt it was crucial for staff to have a deeper appreciation of the process. Although employees are aware of the farming side of business, a project like this helps to bring it alive, and staff not only learn the huge capital investment put in each bottle of beer. but also value the hard farming labour, too."

Currently owners of two farms - Wallen Cassava Farms, comprising 250 acres employing 30 workers, and a 36-acre plot at Bernard Lodge also employing another 30 farmers - the Red Stripe Planting Cassava Day involved three groups, including farmers from both farms as well as others living nearby, who volunteered on the day.

"It is important, as Red Stripe goes along this journey, that the community we farm in feels a part of the process," stated Flynn. "We must represent the people as Jamaica's number-one beer."

Also responsible for the Learning for Life skills-training programme that trains potential Red Stripe farmers, Flynn added, "Project Grow represents boosting the agricultural industry, providing jobs for young persons from the community, and nation-building."

MYTH DISPELLED

Dispelling the myth that the taste of Red Stripe has differed since changing from corn syrup to cassava starch, Flynn said: "Red Stripe is trying to keep more money in Jamaica for obvious GDP benefits, so by using local cassava, we are supporting the local agricultural industry, helping small- and medium-size farms, plus offering more job opportunities. If there was a change in the taste, Red Stripe would not use it. It's the same great Jamaican beer."

barbara.ellington@gleanerjm.com