A “carnival for the senses” was how the Cayman Islands 48th annual Agriculture Show, held Wednesday in Lower Valley, was described.
Yet for all the wondrous local vegetables, plants, food and drink available at what is still Cayman’s largest yearly festival, many who attended likely thought very little about what it takes to get all products to the “carnival” in a safe and healthy manner.
“As small island states, we must take into consideration the very critical issue of and the challenges to provide wholesome and nutritious foods to our populations,” said Luther Buchanan, Jamaican Minister of State in the office of the prime minister, who was visiting Cayman’s Agriculture Show on Wednesday.
Cayman Islands Planning Minister Kurt Tibbetts, who has responsibility for developing local agriculture, said Cayman is well aware of food security issues, “even if some people really don’t pay much mind to it.”
To this end, Mr. Tibbetts said the Cayman government is researching and developing an islands-wide food and nutrition security policy that would “seek to make us more self-sustaining.”
The potential rollout date for the policy will not occur until next year, he said, although work should be completed on it by the end of 2015.
Mr. Buchanan said Jamaica’s current food security policy involves promotion of locally farmed food, but also seeks to develop it in an environmentally conscious way through the use of rainwater harvesting, drip irrigation and the like.
Mr. Tibbetts said these issues are being reviewed in Cayman now and, in the meantime, other measures are being taken to ensure food and plant security.
Ongoing work to screen all crops that are imported into Cayman has recently been bolstered by the local Department of Agriculture’s new K-9 inspector “Maya,” a dog that began work about four months ago.
Mr. Tibbetts said Maya and her handler are now a routine and integral part of plant inspections at customs entry ports. Threats such as the pink hibiscus mealy bug that devastated the islands’ hibiscus trees in 2006/07 can be prevented if they are detected upon importation.
For its size, Cayman produces a few sizeable fruit and vegetable crops, Minister Tibbetts said, with mangos being the largest by far. He estimated about 300,000 pounds of mango are produced locally, a significant amount considering Cayman farmers are working with only about 50 square miles of arable land.
“Thankfully, a love of farming has been ingrained in our population over generations,” Mr. Tibbetts said.
A new edition to the Agriculture Show this year was a cooking demonstration by Caymanian chefs using locally grown produce, creating a farm-to-table effect at the festival. The demonstration was in addition to the typical food offerings, plant sales, gospel music, rodeo and the beautiful baby contest.
“I still believe this is, by far, the most popular one-day event in these islands,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “Even with the competition of Mardi Gras, a significant percentage of the population will pass through these gates by day’s end.”