Members of the Island Council visited the intensive horticulture hydroponic farm of Gezondheid Farms at Rendez-Vous on Tuesday, March 29, 2022.
Members of the Island Council Carl Buncamper, Eviton Heyliger and Esmeralda Johnson received an update about the new agricultural project from CEO of Gezondheid Farms Jim Garza. They were able to see the progress that has been made and view the development of the showroom where lettuce mixes are cultivated.
Island Councilmember Johnson asked Garza how long the plants stayed in the rack. Garza explained that the plants started in the germination trays and were then transferred to the rack system pipes after 7 days, where they remain for 27 days until they are fully grown.
Island Council Member Buncamper wanted to know how the farm contributed to Saba’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Garza explained that the hydroculture farm contributed to Saba’s development in several ways, both direct and indirect. Every dollar spent on the farm rolls back 100% into the GDP tax base, said Garza.
Several other topics were discussed during the Island Council’s visit. These included the priorities of the farm to meet the deliverables of the funding provided by the Dutch Government, the crop production to make fresh, healthy produce accessible to the community, the creation of educational programs to inspire the youth to look at a career in agriculture, and the providing of awareness programs to help the community eat healthier to combat heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Garza said the visit was educational and informative and allowed the Island Council Members to see firsthand the development of the project to date, the farm’s crop production in action, and its potential for growth.
Also present during the tour of the Island Council Members were Agriculture and Nature Management Policy Advisor Justin Simmons-de Jong and Head of the Agricultural Department Randall Johnson.
Discussions in the public
It is considered surprising that, on a tropical island, the Fram grows the produce in airconditioned containers. The huge open-air constructions next to the containers are not at all used and are filled with weed. This may be an answer to the question: “Why is produce from this project so much more expensive than what is imported from St. Maarten?” It is certainly not an eco-friendly setup at this moment.
Mixed greens from St. Maarten are $4.50 in the stores and mixed greens from this project are $6.00! This defies the purpose you would think?
If this is a subsidized project and the produce is locally grown should this then not be more affordable for everyone on the island. We are complaining that people are struggling to make ends meet, prices are high across the board and the excuse given is the high rates of importing especially produce that is exempt from ABB. Why then is locally grown produce more expensive?
The public is looking forward to an explanation from the Island Council Members.