Feature: Harrison College Greenhouse Project Progressing Well

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Chief Agricultural Officer(Ag), Ralph Farnum (centre with khaki pants), in discussion with Gardener, Andre Nurse (second from left) during a tour of the greenhouse facility at Harrison College on Thursday. Also pictured (from left to right) Principal, Winston Crichlow; Guidance Counsellor, Beverley Holder and several of the students. (A.Skeete/BGIS)??

Just one week after officials from the Ministry of Agriculture encouraged farmers to make better use of prevailing technology for increased crop production, one secondary school is showing the benefits of cultivating organic crops in a greenhouse.

Though the project had some initial challenges after being officially launched by then Minister of Agriculture, Senator Haynesley Benn, in 2009, it is now bearing fruit or more aptly, bearing vegetables with the produce ready for harvest.

In just four weeks, staff and students of Harrison College have a thriving vegetable garden with okras, butternut squash, tomatoes, beans, sweet peppers, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, and cucumbers on display at Crumpton Street.

Principal, Winston Crichlow, suggested that the project would be a valuable teaching tool, as the school was seeking to integrate agriculture into the school curriculum.

"Come September, I am expecting a more sustained effort will be made to ensure the students get hands-on experience in agriculture and tie it into all the various subjects that practically we can do so," he said.

According to him, the school was also working to reintroduce an agricultural club for the students, where they would get a practical demonstration of biological theory.

"We are going to form a club… to translate that theory into practice, and see in a real way how things grow and appreciate the value of food. [If we do that] then I think we would have come a long way in playing our part as a school to help develop this country," he pointed out.

Guidance Counsellor, Beverley Holder, who was in charge of some of the technical aspects of the project, said the school even had a ready market for its harvest.

"We are going to sell the produce initially, because this is the first stage. We have an outlet for most of the crops here, but we will be selling to members of staff and students. Those students who worked on the project… would be able to take home some produce to their families, so they would be able to use them and see the quality. We have not used any chemicals whatsoever…This is a healthier production [because] of that kind of process," Ms. Holder remarked.

Thirteen-year-old Jalea Best, one of the students involved in the project, agreed that growing chemical-free crops was a good option for consumers.

"I think [the project] is a really good idea to help raise money for the school and [it] will benefit those who need it…These days lots of vegetables are grown using chemicals, so the fresh vegetables from this school, I think it will be really good for the society."

Describing her foray into agriculture as "fun", Ms. Best said the project had encouraged her to start her own backyard garden.

Gardener, Andr?? Nurse, said this was the first time he had used a greenhouse to plant crops and he was very impressed with the technology, particularly in terms of crop production.

"It was quite an experience… I normally plant, but not in this type of facility and the yields I have seen so far have been wonderful. I would love to continue in this endeavour and see how far or how much more we can get from such an environment."??

Mr. Nurse said he was looking forward to seeing more students involved in the project next term, which he believes would augur well for the country’s future.

"When we involve more children, in agriculture, we can see how they work in this sort of environment, and how we can teach them and show them different things because…as a society we should be supplying our own food and sustaining ourselves. I believe if we start with the youth, we can go from there and Barbados can become a much healthier society because we would be using the crops that we plant. We would know what we are putting into the soil and what we get out of it," he pointed out.

Chief Agricultural Officer(Ag), Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Ralph Farnum, who officially toured the greenhouse facility yesterday, gave the project the ???thumbs up’, adding that more Barbadians needed to see practical examples of the use of agricultural technology.??

"I’m really impressed with what I’ve seen here today… The plants are healthy, and it is good that the students are seeing the benefit of agriculture…At this institution, if people understand the importance of food and have seen the benefits of this type of technology, I think it is easier to sell agriculture to [the public] in the long run. They must be congratulated and I encourage them to continue," he said.

andre.skeete@barbados.gov.bb

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