Seedling trials start at Intensive Horticulture project

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~SCS students, Commissioner Wilson visit Gezondheid Farms~

SABA, Sint Maarten — The Showroom Intensive Horticulture Pilot has completed construction and seedling trials have started. Jim Garza of Gezondheid Farms, the public private initiative to develop agriculture at Rendez-Vous, aims to have the first round of crop harvested by end of February. “We will be providing a spring salad mix in a 1/2lb biodegradable, twisty wire sealing, breathable paper bag with our local grown labelling.

Crop variety trials are being run with romaine, butterhead, arugula, oakleaf, baby kale, mini chive, mizuna mustard, radish microgreen, and other vegetables,” he said.
Gezondheid Farms wants to provide a window of exposure to Saba’s youth to help inspire them to consider science, technology, engineering and mathematical fields of career choices that they have little to no exposure to on the island. “Learning how Mother Nature influences plants is intriguing when you involve electronics and sensors into the learning mix. We are all about energy, frequency, and vibration over the amplitude of time, taught with simplicity while having fun eating what we grow,” said Garza.

Educate students
The Saba Comprehensive School (SCS) has been looking for a traditional farmer for a while and until now was unable to hire one to support the students’ learning. After a work visit early in 2022, SCS Director Anton Hermans and SCS Pro/Vocational Department Leader Madelyn Johnson were inspired by the advanced technology and the possibility to educate the students about this agricultural approach. “We will be looking into starting a program that can be supported by the advanced technology and concepts used by the Gezondheid Farm,” Director Hermans said.

To make a start, the SCS will start a pilot program with Grade 6 of the primary school as part of sensitizing them for possible activities and classes when they formally continue their education at the High School. “We aim to incorporate these new technologies in our Lower Forms curriculum and after-school clubs to show the students that there are alternatives as an answer to the ever-growing demand for food and make them more mindful about Mother Earth,” said Hermans.

Gezondheid Farms will be assisting the SCS on Tuesdays from 12:30pm – 2pm for 10 weeks, starting in February 2022. Students will receive equipment and supplies for home research growing when entering in the program. Additional seed, fertilizer, and medium supplies can be provided by Gezondheid Farms to the students with 1 hour of light volunteer work at the farm to keep them engaged throughout the year.

Engage youth
Commissioner of Agricultural Affairs Rolando Wilson, an avid supporter of agricultural projects on Saba, set the example for the youth to get engaged in technology available on the island as the community works on improving health and well-being. Wilson paid a visit to Gezondheid Farm last week and received an update on the project. He encouraged students and young people in general to get involved in agriculture. “Tomorrow’s leading agricultural biotechnology scientists, biologists, chemists, electrical, mechanical, computer and software engineers can sprout the seed of knowledge, starting here at home with Saba’s youth. Let’s work together to make that happen,” said Wilson.

Food safety
It is important to inspire Saba’s youth to look at Intensive Horticulture to address tomorrow’s food safety and security issues, said Garza of Gezondheid Farms. By introducing indoor growing technologies inspired by electronics and gaming software networked into computerized growing systems, it seems to gain their interest over dealing with soil, the sun, and pests per conventional outdoor farming methods.

“Tomorrow’s farmers are not just outside laborers. The industry has changed the way we grow crops by opening the door to expose youth to electrical and mechanical engineering, computer software and hardware applications, chemistry in nutrient applications, plant biology related to plant health and disease, nutrition and human health related to vitamin and mineral content, while improving eating habits to lower heart disease, diabetes and obesity in the community,” said Garza.