The quiet hillside community of Haddo in Westmoreland has remained unchanged for decades, with most commuters from Montego Bay to Savanna-la-Mar barely noticing the decades-old village signpost.
But last Thursday, Haddo sparkled in the spotlight as hundreds of American tourists spent the day there planting 10 acres of high-grade organic ginger on land that two weeks earlier was a forest. Decked out in jeans, T-shirts, work boots or sneakers, caps, and farming gloves, teams of happy and enthusiastic visitors crawled through rows of dirt under the Jamaican sun to plant ginger several inches below ground level.
The ginger project is a partnership between doTERRA, a Utah-based company that is the world’s largest seller of essential oils, and Farm Up Jamaica, a non-profit organization based in New York City that is committed to growing more organic local produce, exporting more, and importing less into the island.
“We are absolutely thrilled to be here in beautiful Jamaica planting some of the best ginger in the world, and we want our efforts here to impact the lives of Jamaicans in this community,” Gregory Cook, co-founder and executive vice-president of doTERRA told The Gleaner. Cook also pointed out that at the end of the harvest period in less than a year, all the ginger would be bought back by his company, which will use it to make essential oils. doTERRA’s products are distributed in more than 50 countries around the world.
Jamaica-born Neil Curtis, founder and chairman of Farm Up Jamaica, was equally excited about the success of the planting initiative. “Today proves that we can replicate this concept on a bigger scale right here in Jamaica many times over, and we are certainly looking for more support from across the Jamaican Diaspora to enable us to do more,” he stated.
Hundreds of Caucasian visitors getting their hands and feet dirty from planting ginger in Jamaica was an unusual sight for sure. A few visitors also came from France, China, Japan, and Mexico to join in. One participant, Stephanie Newton, from North Idaho was so caught up in the experience that she took her three-month old baby, Rudie, along to the farm.
But more remarkable was the fact that the day’s operation was directed by teenage students from the Knockalva Agricultural School in nearby Ramble. The Jamaican students are learning about the viability of farming as a lifelong career, and they flawlessly executed the ginger operation, taking advantage of the hands-on experience that this project provided.
They quickly bonded with the visitors and brought the ginger-planting mission to completion ahead of the 5 p.m. scheduled target. The management of the newly minted farm was immediately turned over to present students and recent graduates of Knockolva, who will monitor the operation and share in the profits of the ginger project.
While on the island, doTERRA also held a training workshop and an empowerment seminar for girls of select grades at the Montego Bay High School. The next phase of Farm Up Jamaica’s work is to encourage Jamaicans across the Diaspora who own land, to plant crops and partnerships are being secured with financial institutions to support viable farming projects.