It is hard to believe that a week has already passed since I returned from Jamaica. I traveled there as part of my Nuffield study. I know what you're thinking... Jamaica? How does that fit into a research trip? The answer is 4-H...but I am not going to focus on 4-H in this post. Instead I want to share the experience I had of doing a farm stay. It was such a unique and rewarding experience and I thought that others might want a glimpse into what it was like.
When one thinks about the accommodation options in the Caribbean, a resort often comes to mind. I have stayed in a resort before when I went to the Dominican Republic for a wedding. While laying on a beach and sipping mojitos is enjoyable, my opinion of the resort experience was that I felt like I could have been on any beach, anywhere in the world. There was no connection to the culture, other than the sad drive by from the airport to the gated resort community. I felt like I was in that scene from Jurassic Park where the self driving cars take them around to observe the elusive dinosaurs before returning them to the relative safety of the complex.
.Travelling on your own as a female, safety is often a concern. Friends, family and travel blogs shared warnings that Kingston, Jamaica is known for crime, so I was wary to stay in the city. But I certainly wasn't going to choose a resort... and there were no Nuffield Scholars in Jamaica whom I could connect with for a place to stay.
That's when a Google search came to the rescue. "Farm Stay Jamaica" netted me a few options, and I sent an email to Yerba Buena Farm, home of Agape and Kwao Adams. I was drawn to the fact that they take interns on their property to learn about natural beekeeping. Therefore they were used to having foreigners around, particularly those interested in agriculture and education. Agape was beyond kind in answering my questions and I decided that it was going to be the place I laid my head for my short stay in Jamaica.
Here are 5 reasons why I think you should consider a farm stay (for all or part) of your next trip:
1. You can immerse yourself in the culture (as much as you want)
Some days I laid on the hammock, swam in the sea, and worked on my report all by myself. Others I went for a walk with the boys from the farm. As we walked through the community people waved and said hello. I was a visitor, not a stranger and I had a look into the life of people in rural Jamaica, not just the glimpse of their neighborhoods on the drive from airport to resort.
2. You get home cooked meals
Agape and Kwao are vegan. This didn't worry me, as Hunter and I eat vegetarian a few times a week. But my parents (livestock farmers) did ask me multiple times "So, no meat? No dairy? No eggs? What will you eat?"
Agape is an amazing cook and I almost died and went to heaven eating her vegan dhal and potato fritters. I learned that you can fry anything and everything in coconut oil and that plantains are actually delicious. I did have one meal with some meat, when I went on a hike to Kwamen Falls and Black Sand beach. The vegan food was scrumptious, but I also enjoyed the tuna and lobster cooked over a fire on the beach!
3. You have a family away from home
The Adams have a large family. Six boys between the ages of 2 and 16. So it was certainly a busy household. But I loved joining them for breakfast in the morning as the older boys did their chores. Or reading books and playing cards with the younger ones as Agape prepared dinner. For a few short days it was like being a part of their family.
This was always my favourite part of staying with Nuffield Scholars on my last trip. Travelling independently you always have the option to be alone in your room, but you don't always have the chance to join in laughs and conversation around a family dinner table. It's truly a treat.
4. You have a chance to learn and exchange knowledge
Kwao and Agape are natural bee farmers. I learned a lot about the approach they take and the difference between top-bar and Langstroth models. They shared how the honey and honey-comb is harvested, and I even got to sample some regular comb and some fermented comb.
Jamaica has banned the importation of all bee products, due to Colony Collapse Disorder. I shared the information about the neonic regulations in Ontario and we had some interesting discussions about management and the use of various production techniques. It is always great to open your mind to new information and new perspectives (the crux of a Nuffield Scholarship)
5. You should try everything once...
With the rise of unique accommodation options through sites like Air BnB, I think it is safe to say that many travellers are looking for an option other than a hotel. And many consumers are looking for more information about where their food comes and who produced it. So why not take the opportunity to try a farm-stay? Try it at home, or try it abroad - but I promise you it's worth a shot.
For more information on Yerba Buena Farm accomodation, natural beekeeping and internship options, please visit: https://yerbabuenafarmjamaica.com/
I was raised as the seventh generation on a mixed livestock farm near Guelph, Ontario. Currently I am living in the beautiful Okanagan region of BC, where my husband works for Blue Mountain Winery. I maintain my close ties to Ontario agriculture through my job with AgScape (Ontario Agri-Food Education Inc.) and hope to bring a national, and global perspective to agricultural issues.