“Teaching kids how to feed themselves and how to live in a community responsibly is the center of an education.”
– Alice Waters
Recent years have yielded bumper crops of venues for locally grown produce, from bustling markets at the Cricket Grounds and Camana Bay, to local selections at nearly every grocer on Grand Cayman. Restaurants boast “farm-to-table” menus and roadside stands offer fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, honey, homemade sweets and jams. Some farmers will even deliver.
Now Andre Gooden and Jesse Basdeo, of Charlito’s Greenhouse farm, are taking the movement one step further by inviting everyone to get their hands a little dirty – offering free garden plots to anyone who wishes to learn how to farm.
The two farmers, who started Charlito’s just over a year ago on Mr. Basdeo’s family land in West Bay, are passionate about local, sustainable food. They have good reason to be: Local fruits, vegetables, herbs and other products are fresh, healthy and contribute directly to the local economy.
Especially on an island such as ours – which relies so heavily on imports – local produce boosts food security. Throughout human history, local cultivation has served as a sort of insurance policy against hardship. Old timers in Cayman remember when home plots provided daily sustenance, just as the forebears of many expatriates relied on “victory gardens” (also known as “war gardens”) during the first and second World Wars.
But there are other, less tangible benefits to cultivating stronger relationships to the land.
On a small scale, farming can be a calming pastime that breeds consistency, responsibility, patience and respect for the natural cycles of the earth. No tomato tastes as sweet as that which one personally has nurtured on the vine.
It is especially important for children to breathe fresh air and sink their hands into the soil. Even if they do not become lifelong cultivators, every child should have the experience of raising a plant to maturity. As Mr. Gooden told the Compass – it is important for children to learn how food is grown.
Perhaps our primordial need for connection to nature’s bounty is one reason that thousands of people flock to Cayman’s annual Agriculture Show, held on Ash Wednesday at the Agricultural Grounds in Lower Valley.
Now in its 51st year, the annual one-day show is one of the year’s most anticipated events, attracting throngs of people from all over the island.
They gather to visit and to cast an eye over some of the finest fruits (and vegetables) of local growers’ efforts. Farmers, growers and producers compete for the recognition of their excellence in agricultural products, livestock, arts and crafts, plants and food – and the attendant “boasting rights” that such a recognition bestows.
Visitors will get a taste of country life – both figuratively, and quite literally in the sweet bite of a Scotch bonnet pepper, the peppery scent of Cayman basil, and tart fruits newly picked from local orchards. Vendors will offer a cornucopia of fresh foods, juices, smoothies and other treats.
It is a fitting celebration of the “root” of any community – good food, friends, family and the land.