Pineapple Festival lifts spirits of Stonehenge farmersThursday, August 05, 2021
BY VENESHA MORRIS
STONEHENGE, St James — For many members of this rural community their main source of income comes from growing and selling pineapples so they were thrilled at the recent return of the Pineapple Festival and Business Fair.
Last Friday, even as they observed COVID-19 safety protocols, the community square was abuzz with music and celebration by residents who came out to sell their crop.
“I am glad for this festival because since COVID come in, mi business cut bad,” lamented Huntley James. “I am selling less than half of what I used to. A lot of my pineapples ripe and spoil in a mi field because nobody not buying as them used to.” He usually sells to vendors who then sell the fruit at the market.
The challenge with the curfew-curtailed business hours, James added, has taken its toll. “Sometimes them come back and complain that the pine spoil on them because of the heap a curfew dem. Dem have to go home early and nuh get to sell off. So, mi glad fi this [festival] man. Big up [the organisers]. I make a little money and day not done yet.”
Another farmer, Nelson Stevens from John Common Road, was also happy with the festival's return. He usually sells his crop at the Charles Gordon Market. This was an opportunity for customers to come to him. “I welcome it, I'm happy for it. It mek people from all over come and see what we have here,” he said. “This [event] use to keep and then it just stop. But me overjoy to see it come back!”
The festival was conceptualised back in 2004 but had not taken place for many years. The Social Development Commission (SDC) in St James resumed its staging to help farmers in the community who are reeling from the downturn in business.
“The aim of the festival is to re-energise the community in highlighting pineapple and pineapple-dominant products, while generating income,” explained the SDC's local economic development coordinator for St James, Dainty Taylor. “The SDC helps entrepreneurs build capacity and helps farmers to deal with glut.” This is done by training farmers to package and label products, and is achieved through a multi-agency approach, she added.
The Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA) is one of the agencies that partners with the SDC. They were in full attendance at the event. “The 4-H club is a part of the St James inter-agency network and so we have mounted [a] display highlighting value-added pineapple products. Some of our products include jam, sauces and chutneys, [as well as] pineapple tamarind juice,” St James 4-H Club Parish Manager Keisha McNeil told the Jamaica Observer. “These displays are to demonstrate to farmers what they are able to do if and when there is a glut of pineapples.”
The event was endorsed by the area's Member of Parliament and local government state minister Homer Davis. “I am here to galvanise economic support for the farmers. I want them to know that they have my full support. I have plans in place to improve infrastructure in this area,” he promised.
In addition to pineapples, items on sale included pineapple ice cream, yoghurt and organic pineapple juice. There were pineapple-flavoured sweet treats such as drops, granola bars, cereal, cakes, gummies (candy) and other pastries.
Organisers ensured that COVID-19 protocols were observed and all 35 booths had stations for hand-washing , with sanitisers nearby. Patrons entering were required to wear masks and observe social distancing.