Monday, March 7, 2011

Let's get creative - and be all right

Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Asafa Powell show Gold Medal support for the Eat Jamaican Campaign as they commend Coronation Market vendor Angela Jarrett on her great Jamaican produce.
Jean Lowrie-Chin | Jamaica Observer column | Monday, March 07, 2011

At Coronation Market in downtown Kingston, our team could not stop exclaiming over the freshness of the produce, the warmth of the vendors, and the attractiveness of the layout.

Manager of the market Sandra Bullock is an organised lady who turned up at every planning meeting on time to help us implement a rousing launch at 'Curry' for a campaign urging Jamaicans to 'Grow what we eat and eat what we grow.'

After I posted the event on Facebook, my friend Tracy Fischer from Buffalo wrote, "Why would Jamaica import food? You have everything!" She had visited Jamaica for the first time four years ago and enjoyed the delightful difference in the flavours of our fruit and vegetables. I remember another overseas visitor sampling a chilled, creamy custard apple and exclaiming, "This tastes like vanilla ice cream -- only better!"

What better testimony to the benefits of our foods than our home-grown Olympic gold medallists who were on hand at Coronation to support the campaign? Melaine Walker, Nesta Carter, Michael Frater and Asafa Powell, as well as World Champion Brigitte Foster-Hylton made us proud as we saw the courtesy they extended to vendors and diplomats alike.

European Union Ambassador to Jamaica Marco Mazzocchi-Alemanni commended Digicel for rebuilding the market, dubbing the company the second biggest donor to Jamaica after the EU. He said that he and his wife were delighted to discover our foods, and asked why our tasty callaloo and naseberries could not be found in European supermarkets.

Eating Jamaican means eating healthy. The ambassador does well to choose callaloo, which is rich in iron, vitamin C, flavonoids, calcium and vitamin A. It has more than four times the calcium and more than twice the iron compared to broccoli and other vegetables.

Our flavours are a boon for agro-processors. Last Thursday, Mohan Jagnarine and Dennis Hawkins of Spur Tree Spices launched a spicy oxtail seasoning, masterfully blending Scotch bonnet, escallion, pimento and various herbs. We joined JMA executive members at their Duke Street headquarters for a memorable lunch made with this new product.

At the event, I gleaned some useful information from that treasure of a Jamaican, Paulette Rhoden. She said that we don't have to go as far as Europe or the US to export our wonderful foods, pointing out that there is a market of 35 million from Bermuda in the north to Suriname in the south, hankering for our excellent foods. "Antigua grows very little because their soil is mostly shale," she commented. "Barbados' soil is full of sand or clay. They don't grow much in the Turks & Caicos or in Cayman."

We have farmers with a glut of crops who are intimidated because they may not have the trailer loads or because of the stringent regulations of the larger markets. Paulette advised that our Caribbean neighbours are not as strict and a farmer can simply call such companies as Fedex, DHL or Laparkan to get assistance in shipping boxes, not necessarily large containers.

We have the benefits of strong leadership from Agriculture Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, generous support from the EU Food Facility and professional administration from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), a respected UN body. If we can just tear ourselves away from our sofas long enough, we could even grow foods in flowerpots and old tyres to reduce our spend at the supermarket.

Jamaican people, the name of your country gives you one of the coolest brands in the world. Let us get creative to ensure that our food supply is safe and earning us valuable foreign exchange.

The truth about our 'Yute'

National Baking Company's Gary 'Butch' Hendrickson passed on a powerful speech given last Thursday at a Kingston Rotary Club Luncheon by Monsignor Gregory Ramkissoon.

The founder of Mustard Seed Communities has challenged our spirit-numbing status quo. He wants our bright MBAs to be less involved in pushing paper and more involved in productive activities that will create jobs. He would like them to tithe not just money but time in community outreach.

"At the moment, there are some 510,300 youths between the ages 14 and 24 years (circa 20 per cent of the population)," he said "Of these 26 per cent between the ages of 20 and 24 years are unemployed. And 38 per cent of all young adults living in the inner city are unemployed. The national unemployment rate stands at roughly 12 per cent. All told, 70 per cent of young adults are unemployable. Please note that 75 per cent of all crimes in Jamaica are committed by persons under the age of 30 years (taken from [PSOJ] YUTE survey - 2010)."

"It is no surprise then," he observed, "that a deadly combination of lewdness, bad manners, illiteracy, drugs and all the negative aspects of the so-called dancehall culture are threatening to overcome us."

Ramkissoon wants Government to look before they spend on inner-city projects as "unless there is proper prep work I am afraid that will be a bottomless pit for dumping the proverbial 'pork'. At least 20 per cent of all inner-city investments by the Government should be put into the social infrastructure - eg sanitation, play areas, caring for the aged and the disabled."

Here is a suggestion that should be taken onboard by the Social Development Commission: "No economic project should be put into place until all the players are given a three-month course in different aspects of 'life-skills development' — concerning the family, community, self-worth, discipline, ethics and volunteerism."

As Butch Hendrickson pointed out, Monsignor Ramkissoon is an authority on social development, having lived and worked in inner-city communities for over 25 years, serving the poorest of the poor. Father HoLung has also made a similar call for greater responsibility and compassion. The full script of the speech, which also challenges our clergy, is on my blog. Those who have ears, let them hear.

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