Busy, busy, busy…This quarter has been huge for our young agripreneurs in the GFAR-YPARD Young Agripreneurs Project. It’s now 10 months on since they thrilled the audiences at GCARD3 with their enthusiasm, drive and energy in describing their projects. These have all started with the young agripreneurs matched with mentors, engaged in coaching and training, and utilizing their seed funding aligned with their business plans. There have been the inevitable ups and downs – all part of being a young agripreneur and it’s great to see that they are all on track and embracing the challenges and opportunities that the YAP project has offered.
Kellyann Allicott shares the latest exciting news on her YAP project related to developing a line of natural skin care products using raw materials from naturally derived sources, such as organic produce (herbs, spices and fruit) purchase from local and regional farmers in the Caribbean.
The last few months have truly been a learning experience. After waiting anxiously for it to arrive, I finally received the distillation system as an early Christmas present. I didn’t hesitate much but quickly distilled sample runs to decide on the plants we would focus on initially. Honestly, because I was so excited about receiving the new equipment, I used every opportunity to see what it could do!
At the beginning of February 2017, we decided to focus on hydrosols of lemongrass, basil and peppermint. We launched the products in two stores on the island as well as one spa, and the hydrosols have been a constant staple at the farmer’s markets we attend weekly. Working with the farmers has also being interesting. Finding farmers who practice organic methods and share the vision of my project has its challenges. We are currently working with two young agri-preneurs who believe in moving from conventional farming to organic/permaculture practices and are convinced this is the way to go to achieve better products overall. We also worked with a young graphic designer from One Media to get the labels ready for our packaged product.
While awaiting mother nature to do her work (producing the raw materials needed to make the hydrosols) I decided to put to use my skills learnt in 2016, when I attended the Youth Agripeneurship Incubator Program, an agricultural program in Barbados focus on teaching younger farmers alternative methods to farming. With my organic and permaculture methods in my back pocket, I concluded that for others to understand your vision, you have to lead by example.
For about ten weeks I officially became a crop farmer. Actually, I am still a crop farmer. I designated a couple of beds in the tester plot for my new experiment. The focus was on intercropping a produce with an herb. I decided to intercrop lettuce with lemon balm, lettuce with lemongrass and sweet peppers with lemongrass and blue vervain.
So, what did I learn over those ten weeks?
Equipped with sheep manure, compose tea from vegetable scraps and bio ferment from molasses, I substituted conventional fertilizers with these readily available substitutes. My pesticides were the herbs that I intercropped with the lettuce and sweet peppers. The scent from the lemongrass as well as the basil in the adjacent plot I guess were not very well appreciated by the pest. Another thing that became apparent was that not using sprays for pest or weeds allowed other things to grow. These ‘other things’ are usually classified as weeds, but can become another source of income for a farmer if allowed to grow in strategic places since they have medical properties and can be incorporated into salads or teas. One example is pusley. While observing my beds at night, I realised that this same weed, when allowed to take over the borders of my plant beds, was an actual deterrent for slugs attacking my lettuce.
At the end of the ten weeks, I got my first harvest of organic romaine lettuce and a new appreciation for crop farming as well as some necessary raw materials that I can harvest in the coming months to produce the hydrosols. I can’t but conclude that organic methods, especially the practice of permaculture is a win-win situation for small to medium size farmers.
This blogpost by KellyAnn Allicott originally appeared on the GFAR blog. KellyAnn Allicott (ibisproducts(at)gmail.com) is one of six finalists in the Youth Agripreneurs Project, a pilot project targeting young agricultural entrepreneurs (“agripreneurs”), co-organized by GFAR and YPARD. The YAP Finalists launched their projects during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016.