July 23, 2010 by
I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Barbados to do some “work” (I was able to combine a little bit of vacation in with my work!) for a friend of mine who works in alternative medicine. I, being the farmer’s daughter, did my best to get out of tourist country to see the agriculture, tap into my inner social scientist (maybe make use of all that university education!) and see how the infrastructure, social systems, beliefs, heritage and culture play into food, health and over all Bajan culture.
Upon arrival, it was readily apparent that the climate is quite different. As I stood sweating, my inner farmer noticed the different grasses and greenery. There are many grasses that work best in sandy rocky soil and hot wet climates, which suggests very different soil as well. I then become curious about what sort of crops they had there. When I think of tropical places, I have preconceived notions of fresh fruit and veggies with vivacious, bustling outdoor markets. I was very disappointed to learn that Barbados imports almost ALL of their vegetables! After I went out to the country I could see why. First of all the country is not very big, so space is somewhat of an issue. The soil is also very different in texture and sight. (I thought back to what my soil was like back home – dark, soft and just heavenly to walk on!) The vegetables in Barbados were very “woody” tasting and bland as well as insanely expensive!! The cheapest food was “Chefette” which is a combination of McDonalds, Wendy’s and KFC. The main crop is sugar cane and literally EVERYTHING is laden with sugar…sweet bread, various kinds of cane sugar candies, and Coke is the drink of choice.
Being my curious self, I kept asking around and learned that there has recently been a program called “100% Bajan” that was introduced in an effort to encourage Bajans to buy locally, and to request or value local food. I have to wonder whether they’d be able to grow many vegetables. I talked to a few women who have gardens in their backyard and they expressed how difficult it is to get the vegetables to grow emphasizing the need to compost and rejuvenate the soil! I realized right then and there how blessed we are in Waterloo Region to have such fertile soil – the kind of soil that produces juicy, ripe, vibrant vegetables and fruit, and all in our own backyard! I found that in Barbados there were little or no vegetable markets, plenty of fish markets, and lots of bakery vans (vans that stop by the streets and park in alleys so that you can buy bakery items…like Tim Horton’s on wheels!)
Over my two weeks I tasted a variety of food (I even had some “Chefette” food – and I have not had any fried or fast food type food in my life!) It became very apparent to me just how valuable our soil is; it generates food that we can all eat to our heart’s content, but it doesn’t just produce any old food – it yields GREAT quality food! It has the nutrients that our bodies need to heal and live vivacious lives!
Just the other day I was sitting in the garden with my sister and we got the idea to put together a dinner made entirely from our farm. So we ate potatoes, carrots, garlic and herbs as well as our organic meat all wrapped up in tin foil and cooked on the fire. We had a rhubarb drink made from the rhubarb in the garden, then we made our own ice cream with maple syrup from our own trees topped with raspberries from the garden. Each and every morsel tasted heavenly! We had many people stop by – I think the final count was 14 people. It was such a wonderful experience to eat with family and friends who have played a part in every aspect of the meal! We are lucky to be able to enjoy such simple pleasures here in Waterloo Region that many people around the world – and in this case the Bajan people – don’t get to experience.
I'm 70 years young and I must say: Thank you Melissa, I learned something new again today.