Green Horizons-Blog 6-Making Connections
Now we are sitting in one of the largest cities in the Bahamas, Marsh Harbor, the hub of the Abacos. We are on a mission to find fresh food and the people who grow it. We chose to have no gas on this trip, and we are not equipped with an electric range, so we have to cook our food with the sun or by fire on the beach. Here, we eat raw or go to a restaurant because of the lack of beach for a fire. Our solar oven not performing as well as we had hoped. There are still plenty of coconuts in the area that we take advantage of drinking at least 4 coconuts daily! The water in Marsh Harbor is too polluted to swim in so we can’t spear fish unless we kayak outside the harbor to cleaner water. On land the city is always moving with vehicles bouncing down half paved roads. Marsh harbor has everything a normal city has: hardware stores, grocery stores, bakeries, banks, and one stoplight.
For the past few weeks we had been collecting recyclables to take into the city, but we found out there is not much recycling going on in Marsh Harbor or the rest of the Bahamas. One of the problems with food from the grocery store is the packaging. After you eat the food you are stuck with the leftover waste, which is counterproductive for sustainability. Maybe we can make something useful from the plastic bottles or styrofoam by-products, the possibilities are endless. At this point, we haven’t accumulated much trash but we still have some taking up space. The kind of food you buy from the store can either produce a lot of waste or very little, so we always keep that in mind. Before we left we filled recycled jars with our dried fruits and vegetables. As they get empty we fill them with relics collected from the shore.
As we cruised the streets, we asked around about fresh produce or local farms. It was hard, at first, to find much. Did they give up on farming here? Are they so focused on the tourist money that they settle for shipping in food from afar? We got a break while talking about the weather with a local man. He explained that the farms need rain, and it is sporadic at best, so water is an issue. He turned out to be the first farmer we met in the Bahamas. His name is Leslie Thompson. He has also been working as an inspector of government farm land throughout the Bahamas. He asked us if we would like to come out to visit his farm.
The next day we found ourselves in his truck on a dirt road through the middle of a vast pine forest heading to his farm! Leslie said, “My farm has been sitting for a few years and I’m just retired from my job and want to get the farm back to growing for this up coming season”.
As we entered his farm we saw his tractor sitting in a freshly plowed field, and fruit trees and coconut palms scattered amongst high grass. With a little work he would be back to farming in no time. He told us of a an organic Neem tree farm that was not far away. Leslie introduced us to the owners, Nick and Daphne, who were friendly and willing to share their time to tour us around their hundred plus acre Neem farm.
It was late Sunday afternoon; the local boys were swimming and playing at the Union Jack Dock. While we were waiting for Nick and Daphne to pick us up, we let the “grunts” (aka young boys) take our kayak out, most had never been on one before. With huge smiles, all five of them piled in as they paddled out to the middle of the harbor trying their best not to flip the kayak. Nick and Daphne arrived and we started down the main highway with a twenty-minute drive to get acquainted. By the time we got to the farm we all felt a strong connection of thoughts and views. They were excited to show us their garden! Pulling down their driveway we noticed diverse species of plants, trees, birds and bugs. They mainly farm the Neem tree commercially for its medicinal value, but also grow coconut and aloe, which they also use in products they manufacture for market. They also have an assortment of other fruit trees, vegetables, beehives, covey of quail, and all sorts of other critters that thrive in the ecosystem of the farm.
Nick explained that they like to keep it diverse and everything on the farm that is not used in the products that they produce goes back into compost to fertilize the trees and plants. Neem is a natural insecticide, soil fixer and self-fertilizes. As the leaves fall they produce more nutrition than the tree takes from the earth. So – no need to spray and fertilize with chemicals. We toured the farm eating and collecting fruits and vegetables. On the drive back, hey talked about the importance of farming to the culture, environment, and economy. They stressed the need for more farmers in the Bahamas. We arrived back at the dock to a find our kayak carefully secured, and we still had all of our paddles. We said good-bye to Nick and Daphne and thanked them for the awesome afternoon! We were gone less than three hours but it had felt like a full day had passed. They left us with a big bag of fruits, veggies, and herbs. We labeled it a great success and hoped to get more time on the farm to see them in full farming action!
We were still looking for a good spot to fish and cook food in the area, so we planned a reconnaissance mission equipped with free diving, cooking, and bathing gear. Our plan was to kayak out of the harbor to a nearby island in hopes of getting fish, having a fire, taking a bath before heading back to the boat. James got in the water first and started hunting. He was mostly seeing lobster (which are out of season) and fish that were a little too smart. It was still a beautiful underwater scene. We moved to a spot at the tip of the island where we were planning to have our fire. Back in the water, we saw that this spot was fishier than the last and we ended up scoring a couple nice size school master snapper. We started a small fire on the rocky shore and set out on a coconut harvest while the coals settled down and the fish cooked. We gathered a heavy load of coconuts and drank the sweet nectar as the fish finished roasting over the fire. We set the cooked snapper on a rock to cool and enjoyed each and every bite of the rich, smokey flavor! We put the fire out and jumped into the clean clear water for a much needed bath. The sun was settling in the west as we departed our newfound island back to the boat. It was exhilarating!
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Jake ( Truth) and James (Vision) and the rest of the PureOceanTV Crew!!