By Christopher Tobutt
With Deep roots in Cayman’s soil, Beacon Farms, off Frank Sound Road, really does offer a beacon of hope. And not only for the dozen-or-so employees who have passed through the Bridge Foundation’s the 6-month programme which breaks hold of drug and alcohol dependency and provides the clients by adding a necessary “second step,” of real, meaningful employment of a real job where they can put down their own roots and grow.
Beacon Farms is really the hub of a new vision for Cayman agriculture, and by extension, for all of Cayman society. It is the spearhead of a movement to create sustainable, unique, eco-friendly products– things that speak of Cayman’s heart, and its values – by not only growing, but processing and marketing the finished product. It is a win-win, because it means all of the profit of the supply-chain goes to the farmer and into Cayman society.
After buying up the farm three years ago, Beacon Farms needed a cash-crop to help finance the Foundation’s vital work. So they thought of growing tobacco on a small part of the farm’s 34 Acres in North Side, and then drying and processing the leaf themselves, and finally rolling it into the finest cigars, worth between 20 and 45 dollars each, at the Cayman Cigar Company site located at the Bubbles Plaza in Bodden Town. “We are hoping in 2021 we will have a cigar with 100% Cayman tobacco,” said Mr. Granger Haugh, Chairman of Beacon Farms. The Company is looking to export to all around the world, and so Beacon Farms is showing the way for other small businesses – makers of Cayman honey, juices, jams and jellies, to make their mark with a unique Cayman personality-branded product. The farm are doing the same with their on-site coconut-oil and coconut- flower processing plant, too.
Then there was a second cash-crop “We looked around and said, ‘you know, every bit of animal food used on this island is imported,’” said Mr. Haugh. That is when Beacon Farms struck on the idea of growing mangels, a fodder root crop now they have thousands of mangels growing next to their tobacco crop.
The key is working within the ecosystem, rather than trying to fight it. In nature, there is no need for fertilizers, and Beacon has taken this idea-torch and began to run with it. The farm was 34 acres of overgrown jungle when they took it over, but by hard work the Bridge Foundation crew have begun transforming it. Nothing goes to waste, and, by using a chipper, they turned a nuisance into an asset. Now, by adding green waste to the mix, they are able to transform it within 20 days into high-grade organic humus, which fertilizes the soil naturally without destroying its life-structure. The farm has been receiving landscaping waste from the landfill in George Town, but would like to offer Eastern district landscapers the chance to drop off their waste at Beacon Farms, too. “We have a separate project on composting sargassum from the shore – off shore, sucking it out into a truck. We can load that in minutes. Compost each and we mix and match have the right mixture that will grow successfully.
The investment in Cayman’s future has been substantial. “We have about a million dollars in equipment now 600,000 dollars of equipment on order that will be here in the First Weeks of September. That is when we are going to have an agricultural revolution here,” Mr Haugh said. We want a model of what agriculture could be on the island.” The new piece of equipment is a rock crusher, that can be attached to a slow-driving tractor, to gradually pulverize the rock into fragments that can be used to enhance the soil structure, its aeration and drainage properties that allow oxygen to get down to plant roots, and allow all those beneficial natural bacteria, insects and worms to do their work, keeping the soil healthy and aiding the turnover of nutrients. In every way, Beacon Farms is shining a light for Cayman’s way forward.