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Tuesday, July 30

Orchid Ordeal

Photo credit: erin ehnle/keeping it real: through the lens of a farm girl
The home garden is usually-and successfully- tended to by women. However, women have not transferred this success to the management of large scale farm business. In my experience, I have observed that the majority of large scale farm production is managed by males. Still, women are employed within the production process weeding and harvesting; providing supporting services such as veterinary services.
Today I visited the operations of a female farmer in St. Phillip, Barbados. This was as part of the activities for the ARDYIS Web 2.0 Workshop. Ms. Margaret Lovemore is in the business of producing dendrobium orchids. Orchids are a high value agricultural product used in bouquets, corsages and other floral arrangements. Her market is the local hotel industry and florists.
At present, orchid production in Barbados is affected by blossom midge infestations. The female blossom midge deposits its eggs inside the orchid buds. The maggots feed on the buds causing deformed buds and flowers that are not marketable. This pest wreaks all this damage in a life span of 21-28 days!
Ms. Lovemore has employed technology to mitigate this problem. She is in the process of setting up a 30 by 90 feet greenhouse, an investment of approximately USD 40,000.00. High temperature is common disadvantage in green house operations in the Caribbean. This structure has been equipped with fans and louvers to maintain an optimal temperature.
I wish Ms. Lovemore all the best in her endeavours!

The flowers
A section of the green house from the outside
Under construction: A view of the green house from inside

Sunday, July 28

Different colours, One beetle

Various Ladybugs

When I was much younger, the older folk would say that if one caught a lady bug and kept it in a small matchstick box then that person would be sure to receive cash very soon. Just maybe they did have a valid tale, although the lady bugs does better in the field than when confined to boxes. Why?


Remember when, the mention of "hibiscus", conjured the image of RED, wide petals? Now, hibiscus hybrids provide a rainbow of colours. Hibiscus flower colours even venture outside the rainbow to include BROWN. While science has progressed, product marketing has not blossomed. In St. Lucia, hibiscus does not have a significant commercial portfolio. 

However, these blooms are a fixture of the home garden. These pictured here are testament of the aesthetic therapy that the plant provides.Hibiscus flowers, naturally, attract insects such as butterflies and bees, contributing to biodiversity. 

The versatile hibiscus is also used in DIY home shampoos and other remedies.


In St. Lucian parlance, the phrase “hard guava season” refers to a period of financial difficulty. Despite some guavas being sour, the taste of deliciously sweet guavas is not too hard to stomach. Quite by chance I discovered a source for my favorite variety of guavas- large, yellow on the outside and white on the inside. Part of the Taiwanese Technical Mission in St. Lucia includes the model farming of this guava variety and the propagation of the plants for sale. The guavas themselves although previously available for commercial sale, are no longer available on the market. However, having invested time and interest in visiting the model farm, you may be obliged a few.

The most interesting farming practice noted on the farm was the use of fruit covers made of a styrofoam material. These are slipped on the fruit while it is still growing on the tree to deter birds and insect pests. As an additional precaution, a clear plastic bag is placed over the styrofoam sleeve. Decidedly, this was a best practice for home gardening of tomatoes and sweet peppers where greenhouse cover is not applicable. The sleeves off the gifted fruits were recycled in my own backyard project. Calls to input to input suppliers to source this product yielded no results. I took the search to the internet. Availability was limited to wholesale quantities which is not cost effective for small-scale home gardening.

On a subsequent visit, I patronized the facility through the purchase of one plant. The sale price was ten dollars. Assisted by a very enthusiastic employee, I was sold a plant that had already two green fruit. I was informed that initially the size of the fruit will not match that I had seen on the model farm. They would gradually grow in size over the years. The only difficulty I foresee is patience in waiting the harvest of guavas the size of coconuts.