Growing and buying local with ‘Our Home, Your Holiday’:

“Let’s learn more about farming on Aruba”

With a passion for Aruba, host and local Yentl Lieuw from the YouTube channel 'Our Home, Your Holiday' provided a look into growing produce on the island using traditional and modern hydroponics farming methods by visiting three local farms.

The overall message? Buying local produce to not only support the local communities but also cut back on emissions from oversea shipping.

"When you choose to buy local produce, the money goes directly back to local farmers, meaning you're ultimately supporting a local business. The best part of buying local produce? They deliver the same day they harvest. So whatever hits your table is much fresher."

Hydroponics at Cunucu Fresh
The first farm visited is Cunucu Fresh, a lettuce cultivator that uses hydroponic systems in their four greenhouses to produce 800 lettuce heads per day, supplying local restaurants, grocery stores, and hotels. Manager Jake Arends provided a tour of the facility and explained the effectiveness of hydroponics.

"You get to control the environment way better, as well as the nutrient content and Ph levels. It's also just more efficient with water and space," Jake clarifies. He continues to show the growing process in terms of lettuce spacing, with seeds and young plants being placed close to each other only to be given more space once they grow bigger.

Jake from Cunucu Fresh with his lettuce crops.

"On Aruba, being an island, land is always going to be an issue as it is a very limited resource. So being able to use less space to grow more food, it's just better," Jake said.

As mentioned, the freshness of local produce and environmental benefits are also important to keep in mind. "Imported lettuce often comes by ship. I've even heard it sometimes comes by plane from the Netherlands. That's a lot of fuel when you think about it. However, for now, we still need it because our production capacity isn't large enough to supply the entire island yet. But with enough support, we can grow, and one day, together with other local farmers, we could supply 80 or 90 percent of the island," Jake concludes.  

Traditional farming at Cunucu Di Jimmy
Besides the new farming technologies present, traditional farming is also still alive and well on Aruba. Jimmy Ramos with Cunucu Di Jimmy grows beans, cucumbers, okra, pineapples, makapruims (mombin), and his 45 varieties of dragon fruits the traditional way.

After watching a feature on CCN about dragon fruit harvesting in Isreal, Jimmy was sold and wanted to grow the fruit on the island as well. Through hybrid experimentation, Jimmy's farm is now home to one-of-a-kind dragon fruit varieties with unique flavors such as mango, coconut, pear, and more, a process Jimmy shares in the interview.

Jimmy on his farm.

"If you want to be really selective to get a hybrid, you have to make certain there is no contamination from other pollens, so it takes a while to trans pollinate whatever you want to make. You then pick up the seeds of the hybrid you just made and plant about a hundred plants from that. From those little plants, you graft it into the mature plant, and in one year, you will have your desired hybrid."

Being taught how to cultivate by his grandfather, the farming methods Jimmy uses are as traditional as they come, but his skillfulness in cultivation shines through in his produce.

Hydroponics at 297 Farm
Growing nine varieties of lettuce, bok choi, spring onion, fresh arugula, basil and even testing edible flowers, 297 Farm is making great strides in its hydroponic cultivation. The latest in their lineup are watermelons grown using their hydroponic setup.

According to owner Patricia Mitton, they are constantly exploring different produce that can be homegrown instead of imported, as it is a very important goal for the farm to increase local consumption and decrease import.

Hydroponic farming setup at 297 Farm.

"It's important that locals understand that about 30% of the produce coming in on shipping containers are already spoiled when they arrive on the island. That's a lot of money that locals are paying that we cant consume. By supporting local artisans and producers, the money is going to stay right here, and there will be less waste in the end," Patricia says.

To further encourage buying local produce, 297 Farm organizes a weekly farmer's market every Saturday from 9 to 11 AM at their farm.  

Watch the full video here:

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