Budding Farmers Jamaica stages successful summer grow camp
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Pearnel Charles Jr bumps fists with a participant in the Budding Farmers Summer Grow Camp during a visit to the camp, which was held recently in Kingston. The camp catered to children aged three to 12 and introduced them to techniques of farming. (Photos: JIS)

BUDDING Farmers Jamaica, the newest Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries-endorsed initiative to promote farming among children, has successfully staged its first in-person summer grow camp, two years after executing the programme online.

For three weeks in July, participants, ages 3-12, were engaged in exciting activities to develop their understanding of the environment and promote food security at the camp held on Molynes Road in St Andrew.

Founder/Director Grace Henry said a visit from Agriculture and Fisheries Minister Pearnel Charles Jr set the tone for the activities and brought out the enthusiasm of the young participants.

"The minister engaged with them and gave them a charge to become advocates for positive change and for promoting food security wherever they go – in school, church, home, or communities. He explained to them that now more than ever, we need to 'Grow Smart and Eat Smart', which is the ministry's national campaign theme," she told JIS News.

Earlier this year, Minister Charles announced in Parliament that Budding Farmers would be taken into schools, for a one-year pilot, with an aim of introducing children at the early-childhood and primary levels to the fundamentals, business and technology of farming.

Henry, who co-founded the organisation with her children, Mathew-Aiden and Mikayla-Ann Henry, said the camp was, therefore, a "sneak peek into what parents, teachers and students can experience when we go into the schools later this year".

She said hat each week of the camp took a different focus, beginning with week one, where the young campers were shown how to start, care and maintain a garden.

This was supported by organic honey company, ODB Honey, whose proprietor Tino Wright, ably carried the children through sessions and introduced them to aspects of beekeeping.

"They looked at the products and by-products of honey and even had a little taste testing, which was for them the best part," Henry pointed out.

Week two focused on the environment, climate change and alternative farming techniques, such as hydroponics. Participants helped to set up a mini aquaponics system and learnt about plant nutrition. Inmed Caribbean's Sherica Campbell led these sessions.

For week three, it was all about 'Farm to Table' techniques and the importance of eating healthy. A field trip to the Ebony Park HEART Academy gave the children a chance to see a commercial farm where they interacted with various animals and vegetable production areas of the property.

Parent, Suzette Adams Rickards, whose daughter, Alexandra, was a participant, said the camp exceeded her expectations, and then some.

"Grow Camp certainly piqued my interest as my daughter is a nature-loving child and she would be taught atypical skills. My expectations were exceeded as the kids spent most of the. time outdoors planting seeds, learning how to care for their seedlings, and literally seeing the fruit of their labour, which made it all the more exciting and meaningful. This is a great initiative and my daughter now has a skill that can contribute to her livelihood," she told JIS News.

After a fun-filled three weeks, a closing ceremony was held on July 23. There, the crafts, gardens and talents of the budding farmers were showcased.

The children were presented with certificates of participation and gifts from various sponsors.

Sponsors were the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Seprod Foundation, Mayberry Investments Limited, Got Creative Media, HEART/Trust NSTA, Reggae Jammin, Kingston Bookshop, and Royale Tech.

The budding farmers visit the Ebony Park HEART Academy in Clarendon for a field trip where they interacted with various animals.
The recently held Budding Farmers Summer Grow Camp took a very hands-on approach to lessons and gave young participants, aged three to 12, a chance to start their own gardens.
Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries Pearnel Charles Jr (third left) is joined by sponsors and principals of the recent Budding Farmers Summer Grow Camp, during a visit to the camp in Kingston. They are (from left) executive director, Seprod Foundation Lisa D'Oyen; assistant sales manager, Mayberry Investments Limited Asha Smellie; digital marketing officer, MIL Monet Flowers; investment advisor, MIL Percival Braham; and founder/director, Budding Farmers Jamaica Grace Henry.

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