MBCCI empowers local students through Farm to Table initiative
WITH an urgent need identified to maintain the interest of Montego Bay-based students in their chosen area of study, the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) conducted its second Farm to Table experience for high school students, aimed at fostering sustainable farming and agricultural growth while engaging the youth in the process.
Director and committee chair of MBCCI, Nadine Spence explained why the goal of the Farm to Table Tour & Workshop: Bridging Agriculture and Tourism for a Sustainable Future initiative is not just to encourage the younger generation to actively participate in shaping the future of agriculture but to reinforce the existing interest of students in the subject.
“What has been happening is that they sometimes don’t continue with the [educational] programme,” she revealed.
The initiative is additionally aiming for sustainable outcomes such as a deeper understanding of the interplay between agriculture and tourism. By engaging in practical experiences and knowledge-sharing, students can discover how these two sectors intersect to promote a sustainable future for Jamaica.
The project also provides enhanced networking opportunities with professionals in the field.
This year’s edition of the programme commenced on October 25, 2023 with a visit to Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf, a new participant in the initiative.
Working in collaboration with Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA), the chamber’s director, Dr Sherridene Lee, led the visit to support the school’s execution plans for their own farm.
Activities continued on October 27 for all 30 students of participating schools, beginning with a tour of RADA during which attendees learned about RADA’s pioneering e-commerce platform Agri Linkages Exchange (ALEX), followed by a visit to Half Moon Hotel where they explored the farm and were treated to lunch.
Students from Jamaica Christian School for the Deaf, Knockalva Polytechnic College, Montego Bay Community College, and Spot Valley High School participated in the day’s activities.
Spence explained that the exercise of taking students through the agricultural production process and exposing them to a local hotel practising Farm to Table activities is to enlighten the students “about the importance of food, and that they should actively engage in a career in agriculture because it is important and we can’t do without it”.
The programme, which now involves Half Moon Hotel, is expected to gain additional private sector involvement as Spence indicated that other hotels are interested in showcasing their farm-to-table practices, with the potential of being highlighted in future iterations of the initiative.
Interest is also coming from schools that have not yet participated in the experience.
“We are hearing that there are other schools in and around the community, like Maldon Secondary, who called and asked if they can please be a part of the process,” Spence said. “The principals are now asking that they log it as an active school engagement of their yearly calendar.”
“It started off as a pilot project but it seems as if it is something that will be continued in the future,” she added. “We have had our sponsors committing to another year of it.”
Spence highlighted, however, that the main measure of the programme’s success is the increased interest and demand among students to participate. For instance, Montego Bay Community College students, who were unable to join the initiative the previous year, expressed a strong desire to adjust schedules to accommodate the participation of 13 students, this time.
“There were just no empty seats this time around,” the director disclosed. “So we can safely say that if we request that we get 25 students in total, we are going to be getting a request for at least 35 or 40 because everybody wants to be a part of it.”
The fact that additional schools are expressing interest without direct outreach, Spence believes, suggests a broader acknowledgment of the initiative’s value.
“Change is never easy but it requires action and adaptability,” she stated. “Our communities can only flourish with our active involvement and investment. Service truly matters.”