Some 25 farmers from communities in the South Central Windward area turned up at Cheryl Johnson’s residence at Gutter Spring in Mt Greenan on Tuesday, February 15, for an information-sharing workshop on the growing of garlic.
The presentation was done by Canadian, Angela Nickle, who grows mainly hard neck garlic for a living on her farm, F.N Happy Farm in Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada and speaks about the condiment with a passion.
And, at the end of the hour-long session, several of those who attended expressed an interest in cultivating garlic, at least for their home use, for starters.
Among them is Gloria Holder a full time farmer from Mt Greenan whose “interest is to try it. I would like to try it (garlic) to see what would be the outcome of it because we as farmers, we need to try everything,” she declared, making reference also on the need to reduce expenditure.
Currently, Holder grows ginger, saffron, eddoes and peanuts and because she uses “a lot of garlic” she “would like to put in 50 heads”.
Vibert Caine, another full time farmer hails from Diamond Village where he cultivates chive, celery, parsley, ginger and gros Michel bananas, some of which is for home use and some to sell.
“I feel very, very good about this garlic, why? It’s so good if our homes can have garlic that we produce for ourselves which would be much better…I am very interested in planting some garlic,” Caine shared with SEARCHLIGHT.
Ashley Nedd, whose farm is at Mt Greenan also uses a lot of garlic.
“In almost every meal which I cook, I use garlic,” he shared.
“Even If I do egg, sometimes I put garlic in it,” Nedd told SEARCHLIGHT at the end of the session.
“I even pound garlic and honey because it’s very good for you too, so these are the things I interested in which is a good thing.”
In fact, Nedd said he already has “a few roots planted right now”, but after hearing the presentation from Nickle is motivated to plant an additional three pounds.
Nickle plants her cloves of garlic on the first full moon in October every year, and it was on Nedd’s farm on which a demonstration plot of garlic was sown on Wednesday, one day after the information sharing session, and the day of a full moon.
The Canadian farmer who frequently spends the winter on Bequia said she sells a head of her hard neck garlic for between $2.00 and $3.00 at the farmers market in her home state, and a pound can sell for around $13.00.
Walking farmers through the nine months process from planting to harvesting, Nickle said she wanted to let them know what she does on her farm and urged them to share with each other whatever works for them here in St Vincent in relation to the results they get at garlic production.
The condiment which is credited with having a range of health benefits “doesn’t like a wet soil,” Nickle cautioned, and at harvesting, heads should be removed from the soil with a fork to ensure that the entire head is removed without damage.
She shared as well that she uses bone meal and compost when planting for excellent root development, leaving about eight inches between each clove planted and not placing the heads in direct sunlight to dry after the crop is harvested.
Nickle also reserves among her best heads of garlic for planting the following year.
“This is about not importing garlic because you don’t know the conditions under which they are grown,” Nickle commented as she rounded off her presentation to the farmers.
St Vincent and the Grenadines imports garlic from several countries, but the principal source is China. In 2020 a total of 174,203 kg of garlic was imported at a total value of EC$1,046,739 of which 154,225 kg was imported from China at a cost of EC$931,791.
And, last year total garlic imported amounted to 282,516 kg costing EC$1,292,911. China accounted for 276,483 kg of that amount at a value of EC$1,256,917.
“I hope that we would be able to have garlic even though not on a commercial basis, but people have enough garlic for their families to grow,” Johnson said at the conclusion of the session as she expressed satisfaction with the response of the farmers.
But she also hopes that sometime later, a few may move into cultivating it on a commercial scale once they obtain good results from this early experimentation phase.
It was her quest to find an alternative source from which to obtain garlic that led to Johnson establishing contact with Nickle who conducted a workshop in 2021 with staff at the Fig Tree restaurant on Bequia, which Johnson operates.
“I thought the information was very, very useful and it should be shared,” and that was how the garlic information sharing workshop came to be. Efforts are already in train to obtain quantities for interested farmers to cultivate.