Farmers of Port Morant, St. Thomas

IMG_2101 Group 86 Environment Sector Peace Corps Trainees (soon to be official Peace Corps Volunteers in two days!) entered Port Morant community with an eagerness to work with the many farmers in the community. For six weeks, our stay in Port Morant provided the space to gain technical skills (like sharpening a machete), and an introduction of farming practices common in Jamaica. On one of our first days in town, we were introduced to a group of farmers at an organized meet-and-greet on Farmer Brown's farm, surrounded by his scallions, callaloo, and mango trees. Brown's land would serve as our learning space for most hands-on field work during our stay. Farmer Brown is quite the character, and his usual attire is bare feet, worn-out clothes, and a classy, but beat up top hat for shade.

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In addition to doing work on Farmer Brown's land, we were all assigned an additional farmer to shadow and work alongside over the course of our six weeks in training. The shadowing practicum was crucial for cultural exchange with the farmers, such as learning different terminology for the practices or plants we may have already been familiar with, as well as skill exchange...because everything can be done with a machete here in Jamaica. All of the farmers that I worked with were pretty well versed on what is good for the land and understood environmental issues to some extent.

My assigned farmer was Courtney, who returned to Jamaica from England a couple of years ago and has only recently gotten into the world of agriculture. His farm was about an hour walk away from my housing, so one morning we hiked out there alongside the water and through the bush.

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Our stay in Port Morant helped us learn exactly what the Green Initiative project is all about, and after working alongside farmers for the past six weeks, we organized a Farmer Field Day, where we selected topics around sustainable agriculture and created lessons to share with our farmer friends. By the time we were preparing for Farmer Field Day, we knew system of working together, we knew what teaching styles that our group of farmers responsed to best, and most importantly, we knew what topics to focus on because they were the problems that we saw first hand on the farms we visited or issues verbally communicated by the farmers.

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Teaching Composting 101...Courtney kept my poster to refer to while he started his pile!

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The day was a great success! Farmers walked away with new information on sustainable agricultural practices, including hot topics such as water conservation, building healthy soils, and waste management. Not only did they learn, but also I can honestly say we all had fun hanging out together, simply coming together for cultural and skills exchange and a good meal. At the end of the day, hearing the farmers speak to what they have learned, including how to manage compost to creating biochar, warmed my heart and made me excited to work with more farmers during my Peace Corps service.

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Oh! For the event, Babs and I made peanut cakes! Peanut cakes are popular snack here, and they are only a few ingredients: brown sugar, peanuts, and ginger. You can buy them in corner shops, or people will walk around with bundles of them for sale at musical events or near transportation hotspots. I was buying peanut cakes almost daily for a snack, until I realized I should just try and make them (this is how I feel about most things that I buy)! The shopkeepers that I usually went to for my peanut cake fix supported my desire to learn and not only showed me how to make them, but helped me order peanuts in bulk from Kingston. The peanut cakes were a hit! I will definitely make peanut cakes again in the future when there is an event coming up.

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Training took a lot of patience and going for morning runs with other trainees and community members kept me sane. I feel prepared for my Peace Corps service and I loved getting to know my fellow trainees, or my "government issued friends"...we really do have a lot of fun together! In two days, it all comes to a close and I move to my permanent site for the next two years! I promise my next post will be all about my new project---and when I post it, I will be a Peace Corps Volunteer!