It has now been 48 days and counting since I caught a plane to meet my wife on the island of Nevis, British West Indies. 45 days of every morning and some afternoons working and learning how a hydroponic farm works on a tropical island.
The island of Nevis was once considered the breadbasket of the Caribbean. For the same reason that a hydroponics site can exist here, our operation exists in the Mississippi delta....because it can. There is a marketplace for quality produce that adheres to an environmentally sound protocol, here in Nevis or in our area of the MidSouth. The concept of farming this close to the equator has its pitfalls, insects and disease don't ever subside, only multiply.. Shade cloth and antiviral netting are necessities. Constant scouting of crops is mandatory.
What I have found out more than anything else is that there is a simplistic beauty to Caribbean agriculture. Most of the systems in place at first blush striked me as archaic; but after applying the math of statistics to their practice, I find that the only addition that I could offer was a protocol for acquiring numberical information.
It doesn't hurt to be working with the gentleman that started me down this road, Don Mills. He and his partner, Daniel, have been a true pleasure to be around. Gems like Daniel's "I have a finite amount of knowledge and an infinite amount of ignorance" are great truisms of life.
Oh, and Nevis isn't bad on the eyes.
“How can you be in two places at once, when you are not anywhere at all.” Sorry, couldn’t help it, but the statement of “It depends on what the definition of what IS is” is too political in this day in time and strikes too close to Arkansas for my liking.
Truth is that in 1893 the Supreme Court of these United States ruled that a tomato is a Vegetable.
I could use this topic to relate my trials and tribulations surrounding the last trip to Providenciales, but instead I would like to profile two different men that I met while there. Their stories show a common approach to business and life, how to persevere over the economic and personal travesties that so often accompany life. Let’s call them “T” and “D”.
The Turks and Caicos islands are a group in the lower Bahamian range of islands. Grand Turk is the island where the seat of government resides. Other large islands are Salt Cay, Parrot Cay, North Caicos, South Caicos, Middle Caicos, and Providenciales. Providenciales (called “Provo” by the locals) is the island that we have chosen for our operation. It is rated in the top 5 resort destinations in the world by TripAdvisor. Grace Bay beach is the most beautiful beach that I have ever seen in my life, offset by the turquoise ocean protected by the reef. When we went there 2 years ago for the first time, Pam and I fell in love both with the island and with its inhabitants. Great folks!
22 months ago Pam and I were in TCI on our 2nd visit to the island of Provo. We were discussing our history with Pam’s new friend/real-estate agent, Heather, when she asked me what I did. I said that I was a farmer, and she remarked that one of her best friends had a hydroponic farm on the island of Nevis and his name was Don Mills. At the time I didn’t know how propitious that conversation was and how much of an influence Don would have on my decision to move towards hydroponics and tomatoes.
I have always enjoyed bringing up the topic of Jethro Tull with others. Their response to my question on whether they knew of Jethro Tull is usually the same: A British Rock Band, which is true.
What they don’t know is the origin of the name:
Jethro Tull was a 17th century British agriculturalist (now called agronomist) who invented the breaking plow and seed drill. His approach fostered in the introduction of horses to use these new pieces of equipment, and he is considered to be the father of the agricultural revolution in England. It was his held belief that by tilling the soil, air (oxygen and nitrogen) was added to it thus facilitating the growth of the plant. This theory was held in contempt for centuries, and yet has recently gained much traction and respect in the agricultural community.
I consider the Mississippi Delta to be one of the best (if not the best) sources of quality land and available ground water in the world. So do my neighbors, and it comes as no surprise to me when they ask me what the hell I’m doing by starting a hydroponic greenhouse farm on this very productive land. The added issue of using rainwater when our groundwater is so plentiful and good also throws them a curve.