Mon | Apr 22, 2019

JP St Mary’s treats kids to hands-on banana tour

Published:Friday | March 22, 2019 | 12:10 AM
Grade four student at Pembroke Hall Primary, Shaniqua Smith remixes Stylo G’s Touch down for her ‘banana song’ to the delight of fellow students and Tara Goulbourne (second left), Commercial Manager at JP Tropical Foods during the ‘Plant with JP’ farm tour on Tuesday March 12 at JP Farms in St Mary.
Pembroke Hall Primary students pack dirt on top of their freshly planted banana sucker during their ‘Plant with JP’ farm tour on Tuesday, March 12, at JP Farms in St Mary.
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Fifty-eight primary-school students gained first-hand knowledge of how bananas get from the soil to the table during a special kid-friendly tour of Jamaica Producers (JP) St Mary’s banana farm in St Mary recently.

The students, who attend Pembroke Hall Primary in Kingston, learned how the bananas they eat are produced, from planting through to harvesting, inclusive of washing and packing the fruit for transport. They even got the opportunity to plant 10 banana suckers, or young bananas.

“I learned how to care [for] bananas, how to plant it, and how to wash it. My favourite part was when the man was cutting the banana and put it in the water, and the woman taught us how to do it good,” said grade-four student Shaniqua Smith.

Her sentiments were echoed by schoolmate DeJohn Lewis, a grade-three student, who said that after learning how to plant and care for bananas, he will be eating a lot more in the future.

“I planted a banana tree, and I learned how to care for bananas. They are a nice fruit to eat,” he said.

‘The Plant with JP St Mary’s programme is the third phase of the company’s multipronged approach to bringing high-quality, hearty food to students in the public-education system while educating them about the numerous benefits of eating a wholesome breakfast.

The tour falls under the company’s $50-million year-long initiative dubbed ‘The JP St Mary’s Heritage Project … Growing Goodness Together,’ which was created to supply locally grown green bananas to public educational institutions at a 75 per cent discount price of $5 per pound back in 2018.

Tara Goulbourne, commercial manager at JP St Mary’s, said that the tour was the first of many planned by JP Foods to educate kids about how bananas are produced in Jamaica in a fun and exciting way.

“This is the first in our series of ‘Plant with JP St Mary’s’ tours where we invite schools to come in and visit our farm. We hope to host two schools per month for the remainder of the year. But, more importantly, we want to impart important information about the process related to producing the bananas that go into the breakfast meals they consume in our school-feeding programme, and we wanted to bring home the fact that JP St Mary’s bananas are 100 per cent Jamaica-grown, 100 per cent natural, and ripened for consumption here in St Mary. We are serious about farming, and as we commence our 90th anniversary celebrations, we move to ensuring that we play our part as good corporate citizens,” Goulbourne said.

While lauding this phase of the Heritage Project, principal of Pembroke Hall Primary, Ricardo Valentine, noted that despite the school having a 4-H Club, many of his students do not know much about what they are eating and where it comes from.

“I took a few students with me to look at the [school’s] garden, and they could not identify the melon or pepper tree by itself, and only one could identify the cucumber tree, because a cucumber was on it,” he said.

“It is important that we get students to learn about the nutritious and natural foods available from the rich soil of our island. And once they know these crops and how the are grown, then they’ll be able to make better and healthier choices,” Valentine said.

Pembroke Hall Primary School is one of 20 schools across the island to recently benefit from the Eat Well with JP breakfast initiative.

During their visit, the students saw a live demonstration of how bananas were cut and washed and packaged at the Polo Common Packing House. They also ventured into the farm to learn interesting titbits like why the fruits are covered with sleeves, how far apart they are planted and how long it takes banana trees from planting to producing fruit.