Farm Up Jamaica!

From left, Rhea Smith, representative from NY State Senator Jesse Hamilton; Executive Director for Farm Up Jamaica, Neil Curtis; Elisa Heligar, representative from Senator Hamilton’s office and Dr. Julius Garvey, board member, Farm Up Jamaica.
DeAnna Williams

This promises to be a major fundraiser food festival, and last Thursday evening at the Consulate General Office of Jamaica, Farm Up Jamaica, a non-profit organization held it media conference to launch its first drive of a “Jerk, Roots and Yam Festival.” The food festival is slated to help struggling farmers in Jamaica, also young agriculturalist students who are enthusiastic about farming and want to be self-reliant.

The June 11, Fundraiser Food Festival event will take place at the Roy Wilkins Park in Queens. In making this announcement, Executive Director of Farm Up Jamaica, Neil Curtis, reminded the media of how important agriculture was in the Jamaican culture, yet it made no significant impact on the Jamaican economy. “Agriculture is only six percent of the GDP. We have to organize farming, so it has a better impact on the GDP. We have done some research and found ways we can help the farmers in Jamaica,” Curtis said.

The Jerk, Roots & Yam Food Festival, he explained is an exposition for some of the food produce coming out of Jamaica and other Caribbean nations. The items utilize in the festival will be highly favoured Caribbean foods. The Food Festival is expected to help the Diaspora businesses who buy and sell Jamaican food items as well. These vendors participating in the festival will earmark and promote their food produce and their businesses. The food festival exposition will encourage food vendors to show their best displays, Curtis emphasized.

Farm Up Jamaica is also hoping to have the diaspora community members who are concern or passionate about agriculture galvanize on the importance of this matter, and work to help make a reduction, on the importation of foreign foods to Jamaica a realization. According to Curtis, the organization, through its research methods have identified onion as a produce that is imported from the United States, “we took a look at the growth of onion and learnt that over 90 percent of Jamaican’s onion came out of the United States.” In further explaining this situation, he said that Farm Up Jamaica will now assist onion farmers in Jamaica who have the land to produce. These farmers, he said, will work with young agriculturists who are enthusiastic about farming and are willing to take the steps to produce more than the normal.

The organizers also hope that the June 11 event will help expose the Jamaican farmers to new possibilities for them to consider while engaging their work. Curtis said organic agriculture is at the top of the agenda for Farm Up Jamaica. He added that some research and testing are being done on locally grown foods including ginger. He said that some 200 at risk young people are involved in the process to have clean organic farming as part of this development. Some farmers in Jamaica are also asked to identify foods that are imported that can be grown at maximum capacity in Jamaica to help Jamaicans. Once the foods are identified, Farm Up Jamaica will run tests and research ways on how to assist those farmers.

Support has come from a wide cross section of the Jamaica community including Dr. Julius Garvey, son of the late Marcus Garvey, Ky Mani Marley, son of Bob Marley, the Bob Marley Foundation, the legendary poet, Mutabaruka, Lieutenant Stichie, Sister Carol, Glen Washington and several other local artistes. The artistes will all perform at the June 11 Food Festival at Roy Wilkins Park to help make their contribution to the struggling farmers in Jamaica.

Dr. Garvey, in his remarks at the media conference, said Farm Up Jamaica is one of the best ways to help build Jamaica. “Agriculture is the best place to start to help Jamaica’s economy. Jamaica has the numbers to help promote our local foods and develop agriculture,” Dr. Garvey noted. Farm Up Jamaica has also been introducing its organization and its work since the last four years to schools across Jamaica to help expose the students to a better understanding of agriculture.

The powerful American franchise, International House of Pancake, (IHOP) has also joined forces and collaborated with Farm Up Jamaica and is a co-sponsor. Several local franchises in Queens and Long Island are co-sponsoring the event scheduled for the Roy Wilkins Park on June 11.

More from Around NYC