Susan Gordon, Business Reporter
Patricia Isaacs-Greene, the owner of the Green Produce Farm, has a three-year plan to expand the Claremont operation, and branch out into new supply markets in the hospitality sector.
Green Produce already supplies spice and beverage companies, but Isaacs-Green sees untapped potential in her farm and is divesting her interests in other business ventures to concentrate on her 310-acre property.
She is now in talks to hand over the popular New Kingston eatery Jamrock to a new manager.
Sources said Isaacs-Greene was selling the restaurant and was in discussion with another businesswoman, but the Jamrock owner told the Financial Gleaner on Wednesday that she was considering a franchise arrangement. The restaurant employs 60.
"I'm looking at different things in relation to Jamrock; I'm looking at possibly franchising," she told the Financial Gleaner in an interview at her restaurant on Knutsford Boulevard in New Kingston on Wednesday.
"I'm stretching myself between St. Ann and Kingston. I want to be 100 per cent dedicated to the farm because you can't be in two places at the same time. So come May 1, 2007 after Cricket World Cup, my focus is back to the farm," she said.
In the meantime, she will be investing $25 million to develop and brand products from her farm, for marketing to hotels and food manufacturing companies. She is in the process of selling what she termed 'a unique eco-tourism product in the right place at the right time' to financing companies for funding.
The investment will be spread across the farm business ($10-$15million) and a greenhouse ($10 million).
"I see the thrust in agriculture as the future," said Isaacs-Greene.
Part of her venture into "agri-tourism" includes transforming the Claremont farm into a tourism attraction by accommodating tours.
Green Produce farm grows 88 acres of citrus, which it sells to local cooperative and juice manufacturer, Jamaica Citrus Growers Limited, along with hot peppers sold to spicemaker Walkers Wood and other local farm stores.
With the help of the Caribbean Agricultural Research Development Institute (CARDI), and in particular Dr. Janet Lawrence, sweet potatoes are now being grown to test which type grows best in Green Produce's farm soil, which is a mixture of clay and loam.
The farm also grows tubors, such as cassava and yam, and fruits, including guavas, among other products.
Only 15 minutes from Ocho Rios, Green Produce was acquired in 2004 by Isaacs-Green who said the investment was well over $50 million.
JamRock Sports Bar on Knutsford Boulevard, New Kingston is pictured in this March 12 Gleaner photo, decorated with flags, gear and paintings of West Indies cricket greats for the Cricket World Cup. - File
At the time of the property's acquisition, it had several orange trees which were overtaken by bushes and had to be resuscitated. Isaacs-Green said she also had to cut a road to the property. The farm is also powered by solar with an inverter system, but with a generator as backup.
"We are energy efficient and as we grow in the future all I need to do is to add more solar panels," said the entrepreneur, adding that she was wary of the high cost of the oil-based electricity sold by monopoly provider Jamaica Public Service Company.
The farm is also equipped with a catchment area used for irrigation.
But having now organized the farm - in some cases with guidance and assistance from the parish office of Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) - Isaacs-Green is ready to move to the next phase to expand her markets.
"Right now I'm talking to people in the hotels about growing for them so they could get consistent supply," she said. "We will develop our own brand of products and guava-based products using guava."
For her Agri-tourism plan, she has called on the expertise of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo) and its marketing team. She said TPDCo has projected for her that if one million tourists visit Jamaica at least one per cent or 10,000 of them would visit her new farm.
Isaacs-Green says she has had formal training in agriculture, but it's the perceived earning potential that is driving her shift into agro-industry.
The former local franchise holder for McDonald's says too that she sees a natural fit between her newest venture and the food business.
"I think the revenue potential is there as more and more we see the need for high quality export and more and more people want to eat quality food," said Isaacs-Green.
She employs 12 persons on the farm, but says she may boost that number to 20, and possibly double that figure, when her plans coalesce.
She intends to set up tours for visitors,locals and schools. Boasting that her land was good and flat and was just minutes from Ocho Rios, she said her property was often photographed by passersby.
The idea is to give the farm a family feel with animals, and different types of crops that children can pick and eat. Isaacs-Green also hinted that she was setting up a small restaurant similar to that of Jamrock on the farm.
Patricia Isaacs-Green examines a sweet pepper crop on her farm in St. Ann in this August 2005 Gleaner photo.