Everyone can be a backyard farmer

With some 19,000 plants and seedlings sold at the three agriculture shows held recently in the Cayman Islands, it is easy to see that backyard farming has again found its place with 
local residents.

In the 1960s and 1970s, no one in the Cayman Islands ever thought they would have to pay for mangoes and breadfruits, which abounded back then. Everyone either had these trees, or had a neighbour, friend or relative that did.

But as the population grew and fewer people planted these trees, and with hurricanes Ivan and Paloma destroying a lot of the fruit trees, buying mangoes and breadfruit became the norm.

Today, with the assistance of Department of Agriculture and local nurseries, more people are buying and planting mango and breadfruit trees – in fact, mango trees are probably one of the most in-demand trees at the government bureau.

Additionally, in earlier days, most people grew cassava, pumpkins, yams and sweet potatoes that they shared with neighbours. But as many of the older farming generation passed away, and importation of goods became more reliable, this tradition ebbed.

Juliana O’Connor-Connolly, the deputy premier and government minister responsible for agriculture, who also has a passion for backyard farming, is encouraging residents to get back to basics and grow something.

“People would be surprised by the amount of food that can be harvested from a relatively small space. Since we live in the tropics, we can grow most all year long. As food prices rise, these types of mini-farms take on new economic meaning,” 
she said.

For example, 100-square feet of space will supplement at least a family of two throughout the growing seasons. Multiply the number of people to be fed in your family by that 10×10 figure, and that’s roughly the amount of growing space you will need.

Ms O’Connor-Connolly also said there is much unused garden space in local backyards. Many of these plots would make suitable spaces for a 
food garden.

“Using grow-boxes and allowing children to see where food comes from is also very important,” the minister said. “Plus, what’s better than going out in your yard and picking fruits, vegetable and herbs from your own garden? They are fresh, and are organic, for the most part. Obviously, locally grown food is fresher, and there is satisfaction in seeing how it’s grown.”

Ms O’Connor-Connolly said, “Backyard farming is one step in building a local food economy, food security and a more sustainable way of living – a win-win for everyone, including 
the planet.”