We joined a CSA and are supporting an organic farm in the parish of St. Thomas! Organic Farming and Community Supported Agriculture are new concepts to Jamaica. Believe it or not, people need to be told to buy local produce! Even more astonishing is that the grocery stores will actually import the very same produce that can easily be grown here! (Watch the feature length documentary Life and Debt which although not entirely focused on global food distribution explains very well the plight of a small developing nation at the mercy of global policy makers such as the U.S. and beholden to the strangling grip of the I.M.F. and the World Bank.)
Now back to the Jamaican grocery store experience...there will often be "local" potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage right next to the "imported" ones. One must read the labels carefully...or just look closely at the vegetables because the imported ones are always bigger, cleaner and more attractive. But they don't taste nearly as good and for the price tag placed on something like imported lettuce it better be the best dang tasting lettuce in the world!! I can't believe that anyone would actually pay $9.00 (USD) for a head of bitter romaine when the local one is $2.00(USD) and so much sweeter!
We did an unintentional experiment when we first moved here and were ignorant of the imports at the grocery store. Sure, we new the shiny red delicious apples were certainly imported but we didn't really think about the carrots or onions and what not. We loaded up our cart and brought them home only to realize after reading over the receipt that much of what we bought was imported. Oh well, we thought...we'd be sure to read the labels next time and we loaded up our fridge. As the week progressed we noticed that the local produce was beginning to wilt and turn quickly to compost. We had to eat it up fast! And wow, did it taste GOOD! Meanwhile, the imported stuff was just as shiny and waxy as the day we brought it home from the store. It looked like fake food next to the local veggies.
We soon abandoned the grocery store altogether and starting shopping at the markets. The prices are always better and you can rest easy knowing that everything is at least local though probably not organic. (Monsanto and his crew are ever present here, doling out the biotech seeds and the chemicals.) However, with the new green awakening...and out of the very desperate need to create jobs...there is a push to establish organic farms. (Organic farming is much more labor intensive than commercial, biotech farming and therefore requires more people to work a farm. That is one reason organic produce costs more...because real people are getting paid to pull the hornworms off the tomatoes!)
As the idea of organic farming is catching on, so too is the idea of building a community to support and reap the benefits of the farm. We loved our Clinton Hill CSA in Brooklyn. It was really the highlight of the summer and fall to pick up our weekly share. Farmer Ted grew the best kohlrabi around! We made some great friends too. I was heartbroken to say good bye to that part of our life in Brooklyn. So you can imagine my excitement to join a new CSA here!
Today was our first pick up. (Although our veggies actually came to us!) Here is what a CSA share in Jamaica looks like:
Mangos, coconuts, bananas, tomatoes (plum and cherry), yam (the dark brown bark looking things), string beans, red chard, swiss chard, tatsoi, mizuna, salad mix, callaloo, vine spinach, lemon basil, cilantro, bush basil and coconuts...did i mention them?? We actually got more than the 3 pictured but I couldn't fit them all on the table! Plus an extra special thank you note! We will get something similar to this EACH WEEK! I'm in heaven!
A very gracious Thank You to the farmers at the Source Farm!
**If you live in the Kingston area and are interested in joining in the CSA goodness, click here.**