Hello from Eleuthera! Our summer students have been hard at work this week, immersed in classes focusing on either Food, Ecology, or Tourism and Development. As part of the unit on food, we spent an entire day on the farm with Edrin, a local farmer in Rock Sound. Students talked with Edrin about the challenges he faces as a farmer in The Bahamas, including the summer heat and the scarcity of nutrient rich soil. We then learned about how he addresses many of these issues, and even received a private lesson on the process of grafting and budding as a means of increasing the variety of citrus fruits he is able to grow on his land. Tristan, Weston, Aiko, Molly, Megan, Isaac, Ben, Madison, Bethlehem and Lizzie were enthralled as Edrin talked and were incredibly helpful and enthusiastic when asked to pitch in and transplant some grass to small pots for his fields. Overall, it was a fun, informative and productive day that provided a unique glimpse into what food production is like in some parts of The Bahamas. For a more personal account of the day’s events, check out Bethlehem’s journal entry following this post. More updates will be coming soon to fill you in on the Ecology and Tourism and Development progress this week. Happy eating! [slideshow]

“Today the first Foodies team, visited Edrin’s farm in Rock Sound. After Alicia’s introduction of Edrin, I was really excited to see the person behind the vast “One man farm”. When we got there Edrin was in his work cloth waiting for our arrival. He first took us to see his greenhouse garden where we got to see how he develops his plants. I had later on asked Edrin where he got the soil that he uses in his garden, and he explained that he got it from a settlement that was cleared in Rock Sound. The type of soil that we saw piled in front of the nursery was different from the one on the ground. This was the beginning of the string of questions that I had asked Edrin, each question leading me on to the next. Edrin had been in the farming business for 23 years, and he knew the ins and outs of the Bahamian soil. ‘I do what I do because I love it..’ he said, when I asked him about the number of years he had spent farming, ‘…my father did it, my grandfather, and great grandfather were all farmers…this runs in my blood’ I could sense Edrin’s passion, and commitment to his profession, as he answered each question expertly. I felt like I learned so much from interviewing Edrin, than I would have being in a closed classroom, I felt the information flowing in. It was interesting to catch myself saying ‘…ahhh’, and reaching ‘light bulb’ moments every 15 minutes…

…It was interesting to see that Edrin imported some of his grass from Nassau, and he used small patches of it to repopulate the grass around his farm. This really made me wonder if the grass patches I see around the Marina were also planted there artificially. I also wondered how hard it is for farmers to produce vegetables, and fruit locally with conditions such as Edrin’s. Does the Bahamian government promote agricultural practices to empower the local population? Edrin also mentioned that not many people have the patience to do what he does, I also wonder if that is an issue with the local Bahamians participating in agriculture. Most of them might not be skilled workers, or others are interested in pursuing ventures that give off instant results. This could be the reason why most Bahamians depend on fishing as one of their primary methods to acquire food. Under such conditions, the need for importing arises as the demand for foods like vegetables, mutton, and fruits cannot all be fulfilled locally.

Our dinning principles speak for themselves. In our dining hall there is a huge sign carved in wood that says ‘Eat Locally’. I believe that the Island school is trying to minimize its consumption of imported products by choosing the service of local producers instead of exporters. These actions can be testified by the School’s efforts to support local farmers like Edrin, hydroponics, and the aquaculture cage in CEI. The many awareness programs the Island School promotes among its students, the local population, and beyond, is also another way the Island School addresses these issues.

From what Edrin mentioned today, I could see the connection of why Agriculture is not a common practice in the Bahamas. Ethiopia, unlike the Bahamas has 85% of the rural population engaged in agriculture. This may be because Ethiopia is around the tropics, and gets about 5 months of intense rainfall, almost no dry seasons, and 12 months of sunshine. Such conditions are very suitable for vegetation to grow quickly. While in the Bahamas, we have a population that is engaged in either fishing or tourism because the soil (being sandy) requires much more work than the one in Ethiopia. The weather conditions in the Bahamas are not most suitable for growing most vegetation. Edrin also mentioned that the Bahamas has major rainy seasons only three months a year. This might have highly impacted the culture, and lifestyle of the Bahamians, as they are not accustomed into having agricultural practices passed down from generation to generation. A few farmers like Edrin will be only the small handful of farmers that will try to produce local meat and other products while the rest of the local population is (and have been) accustomed to consuming food products that others harvested. This might have started the need to import into the Bahamas, as the local demand outweighed the supply available in the Islands.

Today I kept asking myself, what is the way forward? How can we ensure that the future food system in the Bahamas is self-sustainable? Honestly I couldn’t find the answer to this question, I only had the many problems (that I mentioned in this journal) and it really troubled me. It almost seems like there is an un-shakable system that is in place. I recalled the time during my SERT trip when Avian was mentioning that he grows vegetables seasonally (whenever he could), and other times he would import from Nassau (since he couldn’t produce enough vegetables to sustain his restaurant business). Is tourism a blessing and a curse for Bahamians? The food import—export business does not look like it is going to sustain the Bahamian population, or the growing tourism industry, but what does this mean to the new generation of Bahamians? Locally produced food seems like it’s a viable option for many reasons, but I wonder if there are structures in place to gather enough resources, and manpower to make it a reality.”