Agriculture in the spotlight

Officials from St. Kitts and Nevis recently accompanied a number of local agriculture officials on a tour of farms in the Bodden Town area.

A press release notes that as part of government’s ongoing focus on agriculture following January’s Heroes Day event honoring leaders in agriculture, and the Agriculture Show held on Feb. 10, Agriculture Minister Kurt Tibbetts was joined by St. Kitts and Nevis Minister of Agriculture Alexis Jeffers and Permanent Secretary Eric Evelyn on a tour of five farms that produce a variety of crops and livestock.

Ministry of Agriculture Acting Chief Officer Leyda Nicholson-Makasare and the Department of Agriculture’s Assistant Director Brian Crichlow, plant protection officer Joan Steer and agronomist Claudette McKenzie also took part in the tour.
The guests noted that while St. Kitts and Nevis are smaller and less populated than Cayman, their aim is similar to Cayman’s – to increase the production of crops, livestock and the use of greenhouses on their agriculture lands.

The group first visited fruit orchards owned by Mr. Tibbetts before going to Davy Ebanks’s farm. Officials then visited Kent “Biggie” Rankin’s farm, where he raises cows, pigs, goats and chickens. It was noted that the growing popularity of jerk stands, including Mr. Rankin’s, has stimulated local demand for these fresh meats.

At Harvey Stephenson’s Lookout Farm, the tour party saw some prize goats as well as a variety of niche crops, including bitter melon, callaloo, avocado, pumpkin, spinach, long-beans, okra, eggplant and tomatoes.

As a special sub-industry, the 35-acre farm also produces around 150 gallons of coconut water each week.

The next stop, Patrick Panton’s farm, produces a combination of ornamental plants and edible crops in greenhouses and in open fields. Mr. Panton also raises free-range chickens.

Officials commented that while demand is increasing for local organic produce and meats, challenges include competitive pricing and a lack of people willing to work on the farms.

For its final call of the day, the group visited the Farmers Market at the Cricket Grounds, the most recent venue for “farm to fork” services.

The press release also notes that the government supports the farming community, primarily through the Department of Agriculture, in a variety of ways, including scientific research and technical assistance, direct grants and importation of new breeding stock.