The Public Entity Saba is facilitating the setting up of an agricultural, hydroponic farm to give local-grown vegetables another push. On Monday, Commissioner of Agriculture Rolando Wilson signed the deed for the purchase 6,000m2 of land at Rendez-Vous, Windwardside.
The financing to set up the agricultural/hydroponic farm come from the Regional Envelope of the Dutch Government, on the initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality LNV. Of the 13.5 million euro destined for Saba from the Regional Envelope, 1 million go towards agriculture on the island. The contribution from the Regional Envelope will be used to further develop agriculture on Saba by giving an impulse to the production of vegetables.
Growing local vegetables has multiple advantages: it provides employment, consumers are able to buy more fresh products and at an affordable price, and eating vegetables has a positive impact on people’s health. The developing of agriculture also fits in the sustainable, eco-friendly profile that Saba wants to project.
The plan is to build one or two greenhouses and to have a special building for the hydroponic agriculture, a form of hydroculture, which is a method of growing plants without soil by using mineral nutrient solutions in a water solvent. Hydroponics is a very suitable agricultural format for Saba. It requires less space than the regular soil farming, uses less water, renders a higher production, requires no crop rotation, is less labor intensive, isn’t hampered by weeds and is less sensitive to diseases.
Aside from the greenhouses and the hydroponics building, the farm will also include the more traditional method of cultivating vegetables in the soil. The fact that Saba is located in the hurricane belt will be taken into consideration when constructing the hydroponic farm and green houses.
The land that was purchased at Rendez-Vous close to the Ecolodge on the hills of Mount Scenery has very good soil, said Commissioner Wilson. Testing of the soil proved that. The property is accessible and the infrastructure is already present in that area, which makes it easier to set up the agricultural/hydroponic farm.
The Commissioner was in St. Maarten on Monday to sign the purchasing deed at a local notary’s office. The land was purchased from Keith Franca from St. Maarten, whom Wilson said, offered his land at a good price to the Public Entity Saba. Three appraisal reports from different consultants were made as part of the purchasing process. Wilson thanked Franca and said that this agricultural project will be very beneficial to Saba and its people.
The farm will be constructed next year. A project manager and two workers will be hired. By 2020, there should be a stable production of at least tomatoes, sweet peppers, cucumbers and lettuce. The intention is to have a local farmer gradually take over the project.
The Public Entity also has two other agricultural projects: the social garden at Bobby Hill and the farm at Zion’s Hill. Both farms already produce fruits and vegetables on a steady basis which are sold on the island. The process to construct the greenhouses at the Sacred Heart School and the Saba Comprehensive School has started. Commissioner Wilson encouraged the community to engage in farming in their own garden.