Agriculture reaping benefits

In light of the recent plight of some farmers in Cayman, the government minister in charge of agriculture is taking steps to benefit agriculture.

Minister of District Administration, Works, Lands and Agriculture Juliana O’Connor-Connolly and her ministry are set to lease Crown land in East End for farming purposes.

“I am pleased with the growth that I see taking place in this sector,” Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly said. “When I compare what I saw on last year’s tours to now, it is clear that things are progressing rapidly.

This will enable us to reduce food imports and costs, while generating income for farmers and the wider economy.

“We aim to advance the sector to a point where even after a natural disaster like Ivan, we can still have at least seven days’ supply of food on-island to meet the population’s needs.

With that in mind, I am also keen to see the widespread use of backyard farming contributing to Cayman’s food security.”

The minister stated that there is hope for the industry with an emerging group of young farmers.

Among them is goat farmer Nicholas Ebanks. In just one year, Mr. Ebanks expanded his livestock holdings from a few animals to several hundred.

Mr. Ebanks, whose property is in Newlands, said he aims to have more growth on his farm.

Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly visited Mr. Ebanks’ farm, in addition to the farms of 10 others in Grand Cayman owned by Philip Bodden, Alida Scott, Irvin Forbes (East End), Collie and Carlon Powery, Junior Smith, Steve Jackson (West Bay), Hamlin Stephenson, Paul Bodden and Justin Wood (Bodden Town) and Melbourne Watler (Spotts-Newlands).

New developments

One of the new developments in local farming that Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly noticed was the use of new technologies and farming techniques.

Among other things, farmers have used reverse osmosis (to convert salt water to fresh), drip irrigation and greenhouse technology.

“I saw cutting-edge systems when I visited Kent Rankin’s farm. He is currently constructing a bio-digester, which will help convert pig waste to energy for use on the farm.

Gone are the days when farmers regarded their work as a hobby. It is now a full-fledged business that is significantly impacting the country,” she said.

Farmers have been helped in large part by the Department of Agriculture, which has provided technical support – including sending farmers overseas for training – aid in crop production and animal care, and clearance and preparation of land for cultivation.

The department is planning to establish an Agriculture Sector Market Information System to compile data on agricultural production.

his will enable the country to collect more accurate performance data to determine the main needs for marketing agriculture products.

Embracing technology

Cayman Islands Agriculture Society President Errol Watler, who owns Sparkies Farm, is one of the chief organisers behind the annual Agricultural Show on Grand Cayman.

He said the current status of Cayman agriculture boils down to the modernisation efforts by farmers.

“Farmers who are doing well are those who have embraced technology and new ways of doing things,” Mr. Watler said. “The stragglers are the ones who continue to do things the old-fashioned way.”

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