The Cayman Islands government is considering leasing land in the area known as Furtherland Farm, on Grand Cayman’s East End, to independent farmers.
The plan involves eventually making plots of land available in the 282-acre crown property.
While there have been many expressions of interest since the topic was raised on a local radio show last week, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, no reservations or allocations of land have been made, and no requests have been taken.
Work is under way to survey the site and review the land capability of the areas that could be earmarked for lease, the government said in a statement last week.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture said since the government has acreage at Wildness Farm, which is part of the Furtherland Farm area, that is not being farmed, the ministry would like private farmers to have the opportunity to use the land.
He noted that the plans are complicated, as they involve identifying how big the plots will be, laying out the plots, determining what farmers’ qualifications are or should be, and also determining the type of farming best suited to the area.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Agriculture is appointing a committee to work on and produce a draft policy for the leasing of the farm land. The policy will address areas such as application requirements and eligibility to lease land, length of lease, lot size and water use plans.
Once Cabinet has approved the draft policy, the spokesman said, the public will be informed of the details, including the application process.
The property, formerly operated by the Her Majesty’s Cayman Islands Prison Service, is now the site of the National Weather Service Doppler radar installation.
The property was operated by the prison service in 2003 as a prison agricultural facility program, which allowed inmates to work at the East End farm.
Sometimes as many as 16 inmates, under the guidance of the late farm manager Raul Gonzales tended a variety of crops.
The property flourished, producing a bounty of fruits and vegetables. Inmates also tended to the farm’s eight cows. Crops from the farm were used to supply the prison’s kitchen, as well as organizations such as the Pines Retirement Home and the Cayman Islands Hospital, and were featured at the annual Agriculture Show.
The farm was closed in 2009 following the murder of 21-year-old Sabrina Schirn whose body was found at the farm. An inmate, Randy Lebert Martin, who had been allowed out of Northward Prison temporarily to work at the farm was charged and convicted of her murder.
The wilderness farm was closed following recommendations made in an independent report by local attorney Orren Merren and U.K. prisons advisor Stephen Fradley. The report also recommended at any money from sale or rental of the property go toward a national strategic rehabilitation program.