Greenhouse tech proving to be attractive alternative for St Ann farmers
APPROXIMATELY 150 farmers have bought into the concept of greenhouse farming introduced on mined-out lands in Watt Town, St Ann, by Discovery Bauxite Partners.
Public and community relations superintendent at Discovery Bauxite Kent Skyers says the greenhouse concept, first introduced by the company in 2016, has proven to be an attractive alternative for farmers who were experiencing difficulties with regular drought conditions and were at first cautious about farming on mined-out lands.
The farmers have used the technology to raise a wide range of products for sale to local, overseas and tourism industry markets. Crops grown include sweet peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, tomatoes, cabbages, and cauliflower.
“Our greenhouse model has been so successful that it has become the flagship for expansion by the Jamaica Bauxite Institute (JBI) and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), to other areas in the industry in Manchester, Clarendon, St Catherine and St Elizabeth,” said Skyers recently as he welcomed more than 100 students of the Servite Primary School on a tour of the company’s greenhouse agricultural cluster established at Watt Town in partnership with local farmers.
According to Skyers, the tours are popular with students, farmers, agricultural agencies, and tourists who are taken through the process of building a greenhouse from start to finish, innovative construction methods, crop farming and care, and marketing of the product.
The students were told that Discovery Bauxite has established similar clusters of 18-20 houses each at Nine Miles, Burnt Ground and Tobolski districts in its bauxite mining areas across south-western St Ann.
The company has also built four 3,000,000-gallon capacity water catchment areas to provide water for the farms.
In the meantime Louise Lawrence of the Watt Town cluster, who was the company’s champion greenhouse farmer in the 2019 agro-mining competition, shared her experiences with the students.
According to Lawrence, she is immensely proud to be a part of the programme.
“It has been of great help to my family especially in the area of educating my children. I look forward to continuing in this project for many years to come,” said Lawrence.
Another greenhouse farmer, Cosgrave Campbell of Scarborough district, said he gets about five times more for his labour when using the greenhouse method.
“When we look at the outdoor crops and check the yield against the greenhouse crops, no comparison. In one square of green peppers outdoors we can reap for up to two months, in the greenhouse we can continue reaping up to nine months. And the vegetables are much bigger too,” said Campbell.
Discovery Bauxite has also donated one greenhouse each to six schools — Aboukir Institute, Aabuthnott Gallimore High, Browns Town High, York Castle High, St Hilda’s High, and St Christopher School for the Deaf — in its operating areas in St Ann.