At 83, Norma Scott has not lost her love for the land or her passion for planting.
“Despite the hard work it involves, it is the best therapy under the sun,” she said.
Some 30 years after returning to her Cayman Brac roots, she still cultivates the land with her husband Henley, 84.
The couple make the trip to their Bluff farm every morning by car and go about planting and harvesting peppers, when in season, sweet potatoes, yams, bottlers, watermelons, apple bananas and cassava. In the evening, they make their way home to the north side of the island.
“Some people don’t want to get their hands and toes dirty but I just head to the sea and wash it off when I am finished farming,” said Mrs. Scott with a laugh.
The Scotts, like most farmers on the island, are familiar faces at the Brac’s Agriculture Show, but this year Mrs. Scott says the lack of rainwater has given her a smaller crop.
“I’ve got nothing much by way of crops to enter into this year’s Agriculture Show, maybe a few lemons, some Seville oranges and a few local eggs – it’s just too dry,” she said.
“The water fall on the Brac has been very poor and you can’t put too much of the ‘well’ water on the plants because it will burn them up …. Last year, we had sweet potatoes by the thousands of pounds, and lots of yams too, but that ain’t happening this year,” she added.
Getting a good crop on the Brac, Mrs. Scott said, heavily depends on the area one is farming.
“The produce that grows good on the Brac just depends on the area that you grow,” she said. “The land that we bought was cultivated a long time ago so we got good crops out of it. We can’t get the pear trees to grow, but have a lot of mango trees.
“I was the first one that brought relish pepper seeds to plant on the Brac,” she added.
Mrs. Scott is also into raising chickens and has a coop to collect eggs. She also fishes.
Her passion for farming came from watching and helping her father with the farm at age 12. She planted pumpkin seeds and helped to harvest the crops. Today, she still finds that way of sustainable living fulfilling.
“I got back into farming about 30 years ago after working as a cashier at a number of stores on island,” she said. “After marrying my husband and buying a piece of property, we built a home on Cayman Brac Bluff where I seriously got back into planting.”
In earlier years, agriculture was vital to the survival of the Cayman people and contributed significantly to the supply of food. Everyone had a farm plot, whether it was backyard or inland. Sometimes, the women would accompany the men to the farm house and stay for days cooking and help tend the farm. Some of the men would make the journey to sea to catch fish. When they returned, they would salt and hang the fish to dry. Cooked with produce from the farm in one pot, this became the Caymanian stable dinner called “fish rundown.”
“There’s not much differences between the way I farm today than how my parents farmed when I was a little kid; it’s just a bit easier,” said Mrs. Scott.
“I drive to the farm, have running water and a proper house and home. Those days, my parents made the journey by foot for days. They carried or caught water in a drum and spent the dark and sometimes wet night with a lamp light and did their farming in the day by hand, with machete and hoe.”
Mrs. Scott said she also helped her mother raise her 12 siblings, Lloyd, Fred, Carol, Stanley, Anthony, ShirleyMae, Amelita, Eulalee, Mandlee, Avenell, Arney and Burns. Back in the days before supermarkets, Mrs. Scott’s mother gave her children goat’s or cow’s milk and made bulrush porridge.
As usual, this year Mrs. Scott’s produce will be featured at the Cayman Brac Annual Agriculture Show, which takes place on March 25. Throughout the day, there will be live demonstrations, a variety of displays and exhibits, delicious local and international foods and entertainment. The show moves over to Little Cayman on April 29.