Growth & Jobs | Agent Sasco seeks to marry farming and tourism in new venture
Popular dancehall/reggae artiste Jeffrey ‘Agent Sasco’ Campbell and his wife, businesswoman Nicole McLaren Campbell, have partnered on a venture that will blend tourism into their lush 20-acre farm in St Mary called Mulberry Valley Estate.
The couple said the business will transform the farm into a luxury eco/agro resort. This line of the business is set for launch in another year.
The Winning Now DJ made the announcement recently while giving media and select guests, including Agriculture Minister Pearnel Charles Jr, a tour of the property located in Friendship Gap, St Mary. Also on the tour were corporate executives from H&L Agro, the Digicel Foundation and The Jamaica National Group, for which the artiste is the brand ambassador, and other representatives.
“When I think of tourism, I think of the beach and the sea, and we get a lot of that in the Caribbean ... . I think there is definitely a massive space for more of what I call inland tourism,” the artiste and businessman mused. He continued: “The best part of this place is, there is no traffic noise.
“We have planned 10 total structures: a four-bedroom villa, a three-bedroom, two two-bedrooms and the rest in one-bedrooms in the more private part of the valley, perfect for a honeymoon vibe.”
The philanthropist, who was awarded the Order of Distinction, Officer Class, during last October’s National Awards and Honours ceremony at King’s House for his contributions to the music industry, said, that at full capacity, the resort will house about 30 guests.
“We’re calling them ‘cavillas’ actually,” he quipped, “and that’s trademarked, so don’t get any ideas,” he added jovially.
The cavilla bungalows will be a merger of the look, feel and experience of a mountain cabin and a villa to achieve a mixture of luxury with rustic textures, he explained. “We’re doing stone walls right throughout, travertine floors and wooden exterior.”
Each cavilla will also be complemented with its own plunge pool.
Campbell, who has not been shy about his interest in the environment and farming, often showcasing produce from his garden in his #BackyardToKitchen posts on Instagram, said the resort will be designed carefully to preserve the natural environment.
“Numbers-wise, we want to ensure that the ‘likkle’ waterfowls in the river right there don’t feel like the place full of people and they have to leave. The plan is definitely to blend with what is here, not to upset anything, and enjoy it as it is,” he explained.
The property, which will be operated primarily by solar energy, also boasts a 17-tree lychee stand; more than 50 varieties of fruit trees and an exotic fruit grove, with trees such as ice cream bean, loquat, canistel, cashew, araza, governor’s plum, and of course, mulberries.
“This property here is something I saw in my mind from as far as my memories go back, and so I have always wanted something like this,” the JN Group ambassador reflected. “Whenever my road manager or my manager and I drove to the country, I’m always like, ‘Yo, look pon da piece a land deh!’ So that’s the vision for a property like this.”
Explaining how he came up with the name of the property, Mulberry Valley Estate, Campbell recalled how he visited the RADA store in search of exotic plants for his backyard garden and was introduced to mulberry. He had never had it before, but when he was shown the tree, he liked the shape of the leaves, he reminisced. And so, he took one home.
He then decided to call his home the Mulberry Courtyard and the property, Mulberry Valley Estate.
“The first time I ate a mulberry, it was from the tree that I planted at home. Then I found out that it’s a superfood, and the kids love it. We make the mulberry jam at home. Outside of the name for this property, there is the mulberry project as well, which is a pilot project exploring mulberries as a value-added crop for Jamaica. The jam is very easy to make, nutritious and delicious. It’s easy to grow and produce so the question is, why not?” he shared.
Campbell noted that mulberry leaves are an excellent food source for ruminants, such as goats and sheep. Goats will also be among the stock reared on the farm, from which he hopes to launch another business line in genetic breeding.
“As part of this project, we will be pruning the mulberry trees, feeding the leaves to the goats, and this goat operation is more of a stud farm. So instead of being a true meat production farm, we might go into more genetics and things like that so we get the benefits of giving the goats the mulberry leaves. They’re happy, we’re happy, and the kids don’t have to wonder how come ‘we a eat’ mutton this week, and what happen to the goat ‘wah dem see’ last week?” he joked.
A boiling house is also being eyed for the property, as the musician seeks to explore by-products of the estate’s exotic plants.
“My dream actually is not for it to be Mulberry Valley Estate or mulberry jam, no, no, no. I want to see mulberry jam from Jamaica. And in the same way the ministry tells us to plant [food], who to tell if in another three years, people will be encouraged to plant mulberries, because it’s a new, lucrative industry,” he opined.
Minister Charles has also named Campbell and his wife as brand ambassadors for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries’ ‘Grow Smart, Eat Smart’ campaign, designed to sustain the agriculture sector.
“We support your effort to carve out a unique space in the dynamic and ever-evolving agricultural sector. Your hard work is already showing gains, and I look forward to the bright future of the Mulberry Valley Estate. We welcome you as a Grow Smart, Eat Smart ambassador and invite you to contribute to improvements in production through greater efficiency,” he declared.
Congratulating Campbell on his enterprise, Warren Wilson, senior manager of sales at the Jamaica Automobile Association, a member company of The Jamaica National Group, said the venture merely adds to his character.
“He is multifaceted ... capable of many things. He has many talents, many interests, and many trades at which he is, and has been, successful. Today, what we’re witnessing is merely his latest feat,” he lauded the JN Group ambassador.
“Therefore, when it came to choosing an ambassador for our brand, an ‘agent’ for the JN values, it was a no-brainer to engage Agent Sasco, who we believe is a symbol of what we consider to be a personification of Jamaican identity – someone who is conscious of his past and confident about his present and future. Someone who reminds us that from one, we can achieve many,” he said.