These farmers were planting sweet peppers, fennel, and zinnia flowers in the source farm shade house.
Driving up the hill to Source Farms for the first time I was excited, what was this place, a farm, a village, something new, something so old. As the route taxi turned off the road and passed through the main gate I felt like I was entering a new world, definitely a different energy than St Thomas, Jamaica. A plush, grassy hillside, wood and clay houses, an office in a trailer, it just looks and feels different right away.
Over the time I found this to be because of the mix of American and Jamaican culture/energy in the space. You see it in the people, hear it in the exchange and play of language and eat it in the food. There is an influence of African tradition– Yoruba– coming from the U.S. with the ancestors tree and spiritual people. There is a woman living there longterm through the U.S. Peace Corps practicing Patois with the Jamaican women who make up the kitchen staff. And of course the likkle ones running around the place gardening, asking questions and giving hugs. It’s a real blend of Jamaica and America.
I came to Source Farms for a weekend in April 2016 to visit my first organic farm and learn a bit about permaculture and the community, sustainable living and alternative education. I spent two nights in what is currently the guest house, with an amazing private bathroom just down the path a ways. It was beautiful. Clean and spacious, I slept soundly and woke up to volunteer in the farm in the mornings.
I have to emphasize that the food is really great. A mixture of traditional Jamaican and foreign foods, always with vegetarian and vegan options, the chefs can be counted on to make you want to keep eating just because it tastes so good. With pretty much all the vegetables coming straight from the earth –certified organic– you know you’re getting the full vitality from the food you eat that is naturally intended for us.
The experience of living at Source was really my first experience with what it can be like to respect the natural cycles– there are compost toilets, and the organic kitchen waste will also be composted, with all those nutrients returned to the soil– I felt as though my presence was more in honor of the land, rather than the familiar feeling of disconnection I am used to from living in a city with concrete walkways and supermarket food from god knows where probably layered with deceiving coloring and nasty chemicals. As a city-grown person, I can say it’s therapeutic to fall asleep to the sound of the jungle and be able to see the stars on a clear night, which just points to the sickness inherent in our common way of life in urban centers. I think human beings are meant to live in harmonious relation to the plant and animal kinds, and this weekend was the closest I’ve come to that kind of feeling. It was soothing.
Nomi and Dwight are generous and welcoming, and I also got the chance to spend some time with their children, open and friendly people from being raised on the farm. Dwight gave me a full tour of the grounds, the school, the farm, the clay houses, the new building sites on the mountain top overlooking the sea– and he tells great stories all the while. I can’t wait to see how this community grows, a nice metaphor comes to mind of roots growing deeper into the earth, literally and spiritually, with the opening of a healing center on site.
One afternoon we hit the beach a short drive away, another we walked around the property harvesting jelly and coconut, lime, and apples. Sweetest jelly water of my life so far, and such a joy to chase them down as they rolled down the hill.
My weekend was worth the money, and the energy I put in to the farm work as a work exchanger. As a middle-class, North American white person coming to Jamaica, I understand that I have easier access to funds when I return to Canada than most Jamaicans, so I was happy to pay the $25 USD a night, with food included and everything it’s an amazing deal. The economic struggle against exploitation and inequity is real in Jamaica, it’s real worldwide, so I feel it is necessary to contribute financially, in this case to a project that is at the cutting edge of the kind of change we all will need to implement in our own lives to maintain sustainable life for humans on this planet moving forward. When I eat fruits now I think to save the seeds, because seeds are life, they are currency, and we need to grow our own food to eat and stop poisoning the earth– we are just poisoning ourselves.
It was on my last night that I snuck in on a film screening at a permaculture workshop happening at the school and learned about dead zones in the ocean that are a direct long-term result of chemical farming, creating an excess of nitrogen in various ecosystems around the world. With these monoculture, chemically supported farming technologies we are killing the ocean, which is where we all come from– the original womb, if you will. This visit inspired me to grow my own herb garden and pay a lot more attention to where I am getting my food from. When in Kingston, the organic market is the place to go.
We’re all “just” human and it is profoundly inspiring to see some people taking a risk to live the way the people at Source Farms are doing. It was cool to see that it’s really not experiences as that hard for them, as in, the work feels like joy and it’s not extremely grueling at all times. The bonds of the community are strong like family, and that counts for a lot in a world where most people living in apartment buildings might never meet their neighbors.
Thanks Source for the experience, wishing you all the best in your growth and evolution, and I hope to come back one day soon
JUNE 5 2016
Source Farm Nature School students are back at work measuring and learning about distance while planting organically the superfood Moringa. The semester has started with studying birds. The drought has limited the amount of planting that could occur durning the summer months. Now that there has been some rain and it will soon enter the rainy season, the class is excited again about being on the farm. One of the students stated his favorite day of bird watching was the day it rained and they got to get wet. These kids have experienced climbing a Moringa Tree adjacent to their school so they understand plant growth and why its important to measure how far apart to plant seedlings that will grow into trees as large as the ones they climb. While they worked in the hot sun they discussed how the trees will give shade to the plants as well as shade to them while they are at the farm. The students had a productive class consisting of; compost sifting, bird perch making, planting and transcribing steps of planting Neem seeds, planting pear (avocado)seeds, measuring distance, transplanting greens and Moringa seedlings, and watering, and ended their class with just picked coconut water and jelly.
The Source Farm was featured on the third part of the BBC series on the Caribbean. Here is an edit that highlights the segment on the farm.
Watch the full episode here
Simon begins his journey on the remote Caribbean coast of Nicaragua, travels to the beautiful Honduran island of Roatan and encounters extreme violence on the mainland of Honduras, before finishing his adventure on the iconic island of Jamaica.
Nicaragua is a country on the brink of monumental change. It will soon be split in two by the world’s biggest construction project: a new transoceanic waterway set to rival the Panama Canal. Simon visits the Rama-Kriol people who face losing their ancestral homes and, in the nearby town of Bluefields, he meets the city-dwellers who believe the canal will bring long-hoped-for prosperity and wealth to the country.
In Honduras, Simon dives the crystal waters of the world’s second-largest barrier reef and conducts an unusual underwater experiment in the dead of night. Back on shore, Simon discovers Hondurans living in the grip of some of the most violent criminal gangs in the world. San Pedro Sula, the country’s second city, has the world’s highest murder rate.
Simon’s journey ends in the stunning Jamaica, where he discovers a country confronting its violent reputation head-on with a police force cracking down on corruption. Here, he spends time with young people who have rejected gang life, offering a model of hope for future generations.
Source Farm continues to promote organic farming by selling nutrient rich soils along with seedlings. Come talk directly with farmer, Dwight Shirley, so you too can grow something and know it is safe to consume. Don’t miss this Saturdays Ujima Natural Farmers Market @ 10am – 3pm! Located at 22 Barbican Rd, Next to Orchid Village.
We got a new office!
We have doubled the size of the existing office space. We have a cool new white board, and two new desks with space for six more staff members.
Source Farm engages in so many successful projects, and our newest partner FAVACA brings even more support to the Foundation.
The Florida Association for Volunteer Action in the Caribbean and the Americas, Inc. (FAVACA), is a private not for profit organization formed in 1982 by Florida Governor (now former U.S. Senator) Bob Graham. FAVACA’s Florida International Volunteer Corps is the only program of its kind in the country and enjoys statutory authority under Section 288.0251 Florida Statutes. A state appropriation, voted annually since 1986, provides a funding base for an estimated 100 volunteer missions to Latin America and the Caribbean each year.
We are now able to reach a lot more farmers, and provide technical assistance with specialists in their field from the United States.
This will assist farmers to become entrepreneurs, and utilize better tools to build their businesses.