Local farming under the spotlight

If you can farm in the Cayman Islands, you can farm anywhere. At least, that’s how one prominent local farmer sees it.

Kent Rankine, along with other farmers in the community, recently had the opportunity to highlight Cayman’s farming community with Erica Bargman, the international vice president of the Food Agriculture and Consumer Commission of the European Union of Women and representative of the National Farmers Union Organic Group.

Ms. Bargman, who has traveled widely representing those organizations, was on a personal visit to Grand Cayman, vacationing with friends Janet and Graham Morse, when she took time out to visit some local farms and the Department of Agriculture.

“The department was incredibly kind and rolled out the red carpet for her,” said Mrs. Morse. “They arranged a wonderful day out visiting some of the great farms on the island and she was really impressed with farming in Cayman, the kindness of farmers and their wives and the great job they were doing.”

At the Department of Agriculture, Ms. Bargman was greeted by Adrian Estwick, director of agriculture; Kannyuira Gikonyo, veterinary officer; Raymond Coleman, agronomist; Joan Steer, plant protection officer; and Tiffany Scott, livestock officer.

She compiled a report on her tour for the two organizations she represents, and a report on her visit to Cayman’s farms appeared in the British Farmers Club Journal, according to Mrs. Morse.

“Agriculture and industry together account for less than 5 percent of gross domestic product with the main industries being tourism and finance in Cayman,” Ms. Bargman wrote in her report, and noted there are no taxes in Cayman, except an import tax.

At Rankin’s Family Farm, she noted the farm is the largest in Cayman with seven employees. The farm uses 40 acres of a 61-acre plot, with cattle, pigs, goats, chickens, an abattoir, butcher’s shop and restaurant. The cattle are housed in open yards with a roof and are butchered and sold to supermarkets, she wrote.

Pork is popular in Cayman, with Rankin’s farm having 300 pigs with an average of 10 piglets a litter. The farm has 125 goats, which are mostly Anglo Nubian and Boer, with crosses of the two breeds, and are raised for their meat. Chicken broilers and layers are also a part of the farm, she wrote.

At Patrick Panton’s farm, East End Garden & Gifts, there are 300 free-range layers and broilers. The broilers sell for US$30 per chicken at 8 weeks old. Mr. Panton also grows heirloom and Julia tomatoes, spicy mustards, lettuce, carrots, aubergines and wing beans.

“I met Patrick at his Camana Bay market at his stall selling his produce,” Ms. Bargman wrote.

At Whistling Duck Farm, run by husband-and-wife team Willie and Zelmalee Ebanks, Ms. Bargman noted the venture is the largest mango grower on the island with 73 varieties of mango producing 200 to 300 pounds per tree. The farm has breadfruit trees, cassava trees, pineapple plants and custard apple trees.

“Mr. Ebanks’s son has six goats, six cows, Brahma and Aberdeen Angus with a Red Poll bull and pigs,” she wrote.

Ms. Bargman noted there are no dairy farmers on Cayman. Although there is no certified organic farming in Cayman, she said the Department of Agriculture is interested in this facet, and it has a very high animal welfare standard, she wrote.

Each year, the ministry holds an agricultural/horticultural show encompassing all aspects of agriculture, including produce and livestock, which is traditionally a major showcase of Caymanian culture and crafts. It is presently the largest one-day event on the island, attracting between 7,000 and 8,000 people, she wrote.

Regarding produce grown in Cayman, she wrote all is consumed locally. She noted that 90 percent of food consumed in Cayman is imported.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Would be nice if some of the locally farmed meat and produce wasn’t more expensive than the imported varieties. I realize the small farms incur higher costs, but you’d think without shipping and duty you could make up for it.

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  2. Producing good, healthy and wholesome food for public consumption surely has to be one of life’s most noble pursuits. I really take my hat off to anyone who can cause the ground to yield abundantly. Food security is the backbone of any nation. If the government is looking for any area in which to give concessions, farming should be high on the list.

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