I spent Emancipation Day this year at the Denbigh Agricultural Show in Clarendon, and I must say that this time around I had a slightly different attitude. The crowd, dust and heat often associated with agricultural shows can make you (me) wonder why you (I) bother, but this year was a little different for me.
Going early on the first day of the show may have helped, before the crowds were out in full force. Apart from that though, I found myself very impressed with the wealth of knowledge and expertise displayed across the many booths and exhibits, and the variety of agricultural by-products on show. I must
say, I kept wondering why it’s so hard to find some of these products, such as a beautifully packaged goat (milk?) soap we found in the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA) booth, along with the rum tamarind balls also on sale there made by a member of a community agricultural group. I saw posters of the youth award winners in agri-business (noted for future discussions!)
Then there was the Jamaica Organic Agricultural Movement, off to one side, near pan chicken row (go look for them!) There was a solar dryer on display, with dried fruit products, and honey and honey products from the St. Thomas Bee Keepers association. I was shown an exhibit by Icon Importers and Distributors of a solar-powered drip irrigation system that exhibitors said is set up to store rain water to make you independent of both water and power suppliers in one go. Yes, these types of exhibits have always been there, but I guess I was just more interested this year.
So, I didn’t make it to the drumming or vigils, free concerts or reasonings this Emancipation Day (maybe next time), but I did get a lot of food for thought (pardon the pun). We are doing so much, and seem to have the potential to do so much more. I am the first to admit that not everything I buy is Jamaican, but I do make an effort and like to patronise small producers if possible. Many of their products are excellent, but there are often still some issues with consistency, availability and packaging. I can think of one dried fruit product I fell in love with, dried otaheiti apple bits, but have never, ever seen on sale anywhere. I’m not going to enter today the discussion about whether we can really feed ourselves, but it seems to be a given that agriculture and agricultural by-products are an important income source for many rural communities. There is a fair amount of developmental assistance going into these communities, and it perhaps is an area to which we should pay more attention. More anon!