On March 27 2020, less than a week after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID a global pandemic, the Ministry of Agriculture in St. Vincent & The Grenadines issued the following press release:
As part of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries, Rural Transformation, Industry and Labour COVID-19 Food Security and Risk Mitigation Plan, the availability of items which will boost the immune system must be readily accessible to all,” a release from the ministry, dated March 20 said.
Therefore, the ministry advises that persons with commodities for sale, including: ginger, turmeric, rough lemons, limes, oranges (any variety), guava, spinach, cherry and tamarind, contact the nearest Agriculture Station or call the Ministry immediately at telephone number: 532-8647.
That was just over one year ago.
Last week, the Taiwan Embassy here issued the following release:
The Taiwan Technical Mission in Saint Lucia through the Seven Crops Project are currently trialing different varieties of crops to determine which varieties grow best in the climate of Saint Lucia.
One aim of this project is to increase the efficiency in production of locally-grown crops.
For this reason, the new varieties were trialed against the locally-preferred or popular varieties.
In the session held, Specialist Eric Chen showed the officers better growing practices for the cultivation of lettuce and introduced mix of loose-leaf and headed lettuce varieties.
The loose-leaf varieties are the Red Rapid and Green Rapid varieties, whereas the loose-headed varieties are the Red Romaine and Green Romaine variety and these were compared against the traditionally grown Eden, Trinity and Mindelo lettuce variety.
In addition to this demo, the Mission has made available fertilizers of ratio 15-15-15 +3+50 OM, which is a good general fertilizer with the addition of organic matter.
As a marketing strategy, it was recommended that the new varieties be introduced to the customers first and this will then drive-up the demand for Massy Supermarket chain to request more from the farmers in order to furnish their supermarket shelves.
After this part of the workshop, the irrigation lines were turned on and demonstrated to the extension officers.
They remarked that with the addition of these irrigation implements, the lettuce can now be grown in the south of the island where drought is more widespread.
So, what’s my interest in the two releases?
One is about Vincentian farmers growing nine foods to improve the body’s immunity system, the other is about preparing Saint Lucian farmers to grow seven local crops better.
Thanks to the Ministry of Agriculture’s Communications Officer, Phillip Sydney, I learned the seven crops are: Tomatoes, Cabbages, Sweet Peppers, Lettuce, Pineapples, Water Melons and Cantaloupes.
My fertile mind imagined a large ‘Food Basket’ with ginger, turmeric, rough lemons, limes, oranges, guava, spinach, cherry and tamarind, alongside another with tomatoes, cabbages, sweet peppers, lettuce, pineapples, water melons and cantaloupes.
I saw that basket going a long way – at least a week – for any average-sized family of between three and five.
I then imagined another ‘two-roomed’ basket: the nine fruits in one section and the seven in the other – in one of those longtime ‘two-room baskets’ hand-crafted at the Chouiseul Craft Market, with labels hanging off the basket’s handle saying ‘100% Local Fruits and Foods’ and ‘Made in Saint Lucia’.
The difference between the two: the Food Basket is family-size and the ‘2Room Basket’ is smaller, for a single person or a couple.
So, where did all that come from?
Under Lockdown for ten months with more time than twine and still much less to waste, I quietly observed, over time, as my sons and a green-fingered Rasta friend who plants ‘By The Moon’ transformed our large empty yard space from a costly lawn (to be mowed every two months) to a Home Food Garden loaded first with pumpkins.
Then they asked for ‘permission’ to convert part of my Cactus Garden into a Kitchen Garden – knowing it was not a good idea (to ask me) – but also knowing I couldn’t physically go out into the yard with my wheelchair.
So, when they asked and I said ‘Let me think about it…’ what I didn’t know was that they had already taken the entire outside section of my Cactus Garden and planted seeds that were invisible to the common eye.
To cut a long story short, let me just say that on the first day I entered my transformed backyard — with the help of a light retractable walking stick one of my sons bought me at S&S — I was halfway between being pleasantly surprised and vex to see what I saw: fruits and vegetables in my cactus garden.
I swallowed hard…
But, in the end, I had to admit that, right under my nose, my sons and ‘Ras’ had transformed my costly backyard lawn into a paying kitchen garden — without me losing any of my precious cacti.
From there on, still learning to walk again and my sons more frequently leaving me to discover some of the hidden pleasures of being ‘Home Alone’, I started watering the garden(s) – and sharing the pumpkins of different colors with extended family and friends.
And after reading the two news items above, I looked into my bathroom mirror and asked myself one morning: ‘Now you are starting getting around, why don’t you share with the rest of Saint Lucia, the Caribbean and The World this fruitful experience, to help promote planting what we eat so that we can eat better to stay well — and fight COVID better?’
And in my bedroom mirror minutes later, I asked: ‘And why don’t you share this experience with elderly or older or aged or aging or gracefully-aging ‘people like yourself?’
The very next day, I drafted a plan that will see all you read above happening here sooner than later and called Vincentian Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar near midday Thursday.
He was in ‘a CARICOM meeting’ and promised to call back later.
Four hours later, a volcano eruption shifted the emphasis from planting foods to build body immunity to saving lives…
But the dust clouds didn’t darken my idea: I contacted Sydney again and Phase One went into action over lunch that same day at my favorite Suchi Bar at Rodney Bay Marina.
All I can say, for now: It’s a work in quick progress and I’ll most likely have fruitful reports to share about healthy foods and fruits you can grow and eat at home, whether you’re as young as my last son who turned 35 today, or rendered to a wheelchair for the rest of your life.
I call it a ‘Young and Old Solution’ to the problems of COVID Fatigue or Vaccine Hesitance Anxiety – or to the age-old problem of treating the elderly as ‘have-beens’ waiting to expire.