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High cash returns with backyard gardens

12/10/2011

By Jenna Marshall

A recent study performed by exchange students from McGill University on assignment at the Bellairs Research Institute has discovered the potential for high cash returns from the use of residential backyard organic farming.

These findings were discussed at the Institute’s open garden day under the title “Organic Home Gardening with Limited Space” which took place at the Institute in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management on Wednesday.

Managing Director of the Institute, Susan Mahon, noted that she was pleased by the involvement of the Ministry of Agriculture, specifically agronomist David Bynoe, as mentor for the McGill students.

Mahon explained that the findings from the study solidified the need for more importance to be placed on the expansion of organic gardening within the country, as it showed potential to not only increase individual household income, but also to decrease national expenditure on foodstuff, as well as safeguard food security, if practised on a larger scale throughout the island and the wider Caribbean region.

She stated, “Although it is a student project, I believe it is one of national importance because the more people who do home gardening, the better it would be in terms of the food security on a national level, looking to buy local produce, produce that is grown seasonally, as well as eating healthy. I think it is very significant project for Barbados as well as the rest of the Caribbean in the context of global food security as well.”

As part of the exchange internship programme, McGill students, Lea Ravensbergen, Ashley Galagusz, Casey Harrison and Emily Fretts constructed four small areas inclusive of a hanging garden, a 12-square foot vegetable garden, as well as a pyramid containerised garden donated by the Ministry which they maintained over a four-month period. They were then able to quantify the level of savings and/or revenue which could be gained from the use of simple gardening technology.

The results illustrated that after the cost of construction, which totalled $100, a Barbadian householder could see, on average, an income of $ 1 000 from the sale of their produce.

The students explained that while the construction costs were low, they stated if all products used for the study were purchased, the total would be closer to $1 000. However, much of the costs of the materials were circumvented due to their relative availability within the home.

According to Harrison, the major difficulty encountered was that of the Giant African Snail, which was solved with the use of an opened beer bottle as the invertebrates displayed an affinity to the beverage, as well as a mixture of eggshells and gravel to deter the movement of the snail.

According to the data produced, a hanging baskets planted with herbs and tomatoes measuring three square feet could produced on average up to $175 every year, while a 13-square foot pyramid structure planted with bok choy, tomatoes and peppers produced $386 per year. In addition, a 12-square foot garden planted with okra, tomatoes and peppers produced $348 every year.

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