While the Cayman 2.0 series has thus far been looking at the ideas and strategies that could make the country a better place, we’re changing things up for December. This month, we’re highlighting 21 people who could turn some of those ideas into reality – or at least get the ball rolling – over the next calendar year.
Spending his days covered in dirt, sawdust or a combination of the two, it will be hard to recognise Andre Gooden if you had met him in his previous traditional career-driven life.
“I was in engineering seven years,” said Gooden, who added he knew it was time for a change. “It was just wanting to do something that I felt was important for me, not just to make money.”
So Gooden did the logical thing – he quit his job.
“I started doing farming and that led me into woodworking,” he said.
And so Charlito’s Greenhouse was born.
It began as a small project and soon expanded to become a community garden in West Bay tucked in a yard near Henning Lane.
“I didn’t have any time at all in my previous job to really pick up hobbies as much,” Gooden said. “So when I did get those moments, that was my go-to for peace; I just wanted to garden,” Gooden said. “So I didn’t research it. It was just kind of like, ‘I need some dirt. Let me plant some seeds, see what happens. Whatever was wrong, try and figure it out.’ “
21 People in 2021
Soon, Gooden was inviting people to farm with Charlito’s Greenhouse and his services expanded.
“I would basically be able to live off the farm,” he said. Like many who have toiled in the soil in Cayman, however, Gooden and his team faced challenges.
“We encountered pretty much all the problems you would encounter,” Gooden said. “Our largest issue wasn’t really so much space, but it was more of the arable soil to work with. So what we did was – just like everybody else who found a solution with soil that doesn’t work – build something that you can create healthier soil. So we did similar stuff like going vertical, just doing raised beds.
“It’s pretty much just whatever we had, we tried to maximise that.”
After a while, his desire to create in a sustainable way shifted from the farm to woodworking. He began using wooden pallets to create furniture. These days, Charlito’s Greenhouse is a full-fledged carpentry business.
“I picked that hobby up on my own. And then I just kind of introduced that to people, that ‘Hey, this is what I’m doing,’” Gooden said. “So it kind of turned itself into a business. It made me realise that I can take a hobby or idea and actually sustain myself and live based on that.”
The engineer turned urban farmer turned carpenter said he’s never regretted switching from a suit and tie to work boots and gloves. He hopes he inspires others to live sustainable lives and follow their passions, although he cautions they may not want to follow his path exactly.
“Don’t quit your job like I did,” Gooden said with a smile. “It wasn’t the wisest thing at the time. But, definitely, it’s as simple as just do it. Just try it.”