by Grenada Agro Tourism
Historically, farming in Grenada was a simple, pure farming process where estates such as Mt Parnassus Plantation grew these crops with no artificial fertilisers and harmful chemicals. Today, this organically grown and time-honoured artificial fertiliser free tradition continues at Mt Parnassus Plantation. A fast buck was not the theme of the day, rather it was sustainable farming and a general respect for the land, fauna, animals and we humans, the custodians of the earth. Cosmos Williams the “cocoa man” of Mt Parnassus Plantation stated that organically grown crops are much healthier and safer for human consumption. He also stated that manufacturers of artificial fertilisers provide directions and safe usage on the package but this at times is not followed by some farmers thus compounding the problem with the usage of artificial fertilisers.
Why the use of chemicals in the form of artificial fertilisers in modern-day farming? Scientists state that, “Soil is a major source of nutrients needed for plant growth. The 3 main nutrients are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K).” In conventional farming artificial fertilisers are used and they are “manufactured from petrol or natural gas. They can contain a wide variety of nutrients including nitrates, magnesium, phosphorous and potassium. Fertilisers that contain nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are called NPK fertilisers. Artificial fertilisers contain a relatively high quantity of nutrients so smaller volumes of them are needed.” We know that artificial fertilisers are less expensive compared to natural and traditional fertiliser, but at what cost?
The agronomist, Allison Haynes of the Grenada Organic Agricultural Movement (GOAM) stated that for nitrogen-fixing “leguminous plants like pigeon pea, beans, etc. will fix nitrogen, adding compost and plant debris will increase humus and provide nutrients to soil.” My father calls me “baby farmer”, he is right and because of that, I am willing to try all kinda ting. I research and experiment. Remember back in the day our grandparents planted peas and corn together, well that was because the peas provided nitrogen to the soil. My method – plant short beans on the perimeter of the raised bed to fix nitrogen to the soil.
The P (pee) in farming! The article, Gee Whiz: Human Urine Is Shown to Be an Effective Agricultural Fertilizer explains the P (pee), “urine is chock full of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, which are the nutrients plants need to thrive — and the main ingredients in common mineral fertilisers.” Farmers in Grenada who produce organically grown crops use natural additives such as cow, sheep, donkey and goat manure as this manure is chock full of urine (pee) as a source of phosphorus (P).
Potassium (K) for plants can be found in easily available sources such as compost, wood ash and the sargassum seaweed dat we jus leaving on Marquis and Soubise beach to rot and smell. Anybody cyan go get ah bucket and clean up duh beach. Ah want to see ah yout man or woman stat up ah simple business, collect and sell de seaweed. Jus as seamoss is big business, duh sargassum seaweed cyan be big business. All yuh need is ah bucket and ah scale to weight it…get ah sign “seaweed for sale”, price it reasonable and boom…yuh good to go. And backyard gardeners and farmers, buy dey seaweed, support dem youts. How we transporting it — send it on ah bus. What happens wen we doh have seaweed, wat allu selling? Well wen it plentiful, take some and make compost, take it off the beach, mix it with leaf, lawn grass (from all duh yard allu cutting) and den sell dat as processed compost.
In 2021 the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) Grenada launched the first Backyard Gardeners Network Initiative (BGNI) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture. Derek Charles of IICA stated that the “objectives of the BGNI are to strengthen the technical capacity of community members for increased backyard production for improved community food security. The platform is used to exchange experience and knowledge as members tend to rely on fellow members for information on how to successfully produce crops in their backyards.” He also noted the success of the program as there are several individuals who are now able to feed their families local, healthy produce. Merilan Bubb is a prolific backyard gardener. She is able to feed her 4-person family by using traditional methods such as composting and compost tea as opposed to artificial fertilisers.
Due to several global crisis, we see that the cost of fertiliser has increased 300%. This would be passed on to our farmers and the end consumer — YOU. With food prices expected to increase significantly, farmers are encouraged to adopt a local approach and use wat we have — local, traditional manure and farming practices.
Tricia Simon is the owner and manager of La Bonté a natural, agro-based skincare line produced in the tri-island state of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique.