Dave Rodney, Contributor
In less than a month after the New York City launch of Farm Up Jamaica, a programme designed to grow more organic foods in Jamaica, the company's chief executive officer, Neil Curtis is reporting an immediate tidal wave of interest in the initiative .
Curtis, a New York-based Jamaican businessman and entrepreneur, is also the founder of Farm Up Jamaica Limited. Its objective is to assist farmers in Jamaica to grow more targeted organic crops to reduce the importation of some produce and to increase the export of others with the long-term objectives of helping to stabilise the Jamaican dollar and generate employment.
"Since the launch in early October, we have received hundreds of calls, emails and queries from all across the diaspora, including as far away as Europe, from people who want to participate," Curtis said. "Many of the calls are from farmers who have idle lands that they wish to put into productive use, and other queries are coming from donors who wish to contribute cash, their time and their expertise, and offer equipment. What everyone has in common is a great desire to help restore Jamaica's agricultural sector to its former glory. We want to quickly allocate resources to where they are needed most," Curtis further stated.
Several Farm Up Jamaica organic projects are being prepared for implementation across Jamaica. A five-acre non-GMO organic onion farm pilot has already kicked off in New Forest in western Manchester, and that farm is being developed with technical assistance from the Jamaica Organic Agricultural Movement (JOAM). Farm Up Jamaica is providing land clearance, seeds, materials, use of farming equipment and funding to jump-start this crop. JOAM is training the farmers and staff in organic farming techniques.
Onions were selected for the first project because a prior consultation with Jamaica's Ministry of Agriculture pointed to a critical and urgent shortfall in the local production of onions. Curtis said that despite the fact that Jamaica now has, and always had, the capability to produce onions, about 90 per cent of this product in use locally is being imported. The first crop of healthier, organic onions is expected to reach market by March 2014. The managing director for this project segment is Sandra Bramwell. Other crops, including pineapples, ginger, Irish potatoes and peppers will come on stream over the next few weeks and months on a priority basis.
Discussions are also being held with the Jamaica Agricultural Society as to how best that agency may assist Farm Up Jamaica.
Farm Up Jamaica Limited is an international non-profit organisation formed in the United States with offices in New York State and Jamaica, and funded by private and corporate donations from across the Jamaican diaspora. For more, visit farmupjamaica.com.