Students across The Bahamas now have the opportunity to learn first-hand how to grow their own fruits and vegetables. The Agricultural Development Organization Bahamas (ADO) and Disney Cruise Line (DCL) are teaming up together in a multi-year project to build gardens across schools in Abaco and Eleuthera.
“Disney is proud to invest in youth programs in our port communities that provide students with tools and hands-on experiences to learn new skills,” said Joey Gaskins, Public Affairs Director for The Bahamas and Caribbean, Disney Cruise Line. “Supporting this initiative is an extension of our longstanding conservation work in The Bahamas and helps us educate students about building sustainable communities and inspire them to explore careers in farming.”
Earlier this week, ADO, DCL VoluntEARS and dozens of students came together at Preston Albury High School in Eleuthera to kick off the program, planting a variety of seedlings and building irrigation systems to start their new garden.
In addition to Preston Albury, ADO and DCL will partner to plant gardens at Central Eleuthera High, North Eleuthera High and Harbour Island All-Age School, all in Eleuthera, and Patrick J. Bethel High School in Abaco. Throughout the school year, students will maintain their gardens with help from their assigned ADO field officer, who will visit the students regularly to provide guidance and mentorship. ADO provides each school with planting exercises, supplies, soil, irrigation materials and a shade house.
“When we began providing backyard farming kits and as we expanded to school farms, we knew that it was one thing to give a person supplies and wish them luck, but another thing to help them succeed,” said Philip Smith, Executive Chairman, ADO. “That is why with each garden kit we provide comes the assignment of a field officer who will be present for the soil preparation and initial planting and visit every property with a monthly follow-up.”
The ADO’s Micro Gardens and School Farming Project provides schools with tools to teach students how to grow sustainable, healthy foods and manage their own garden. As part of its commitment to inspire the next generation while creating lasting, positive impact in The Bahamas, DCL contributed nearly $100,000 in support of the program, which will help provide tools and equipment to build new gardens at each school.
Principal of Preston Albury High School Kenneth Roberts said he was “elated beyond words” to have DCL and ADO partner with the school in its agricultural program.
“Once upon a time, Eleutherans used to export agricultural goods to the United States and Europe. We’d like to see agriculture restored on the island to allow our students to see they can have a viable, financially stable future in various fields in agriculture,” he noted.
The school’s Agriculture Science teacher, Perez Armaly, who has spent the last three years developing the farming program at Preston Albury High, said ADO and DCL’s help would go a long way.
“For the past three years, our agriculture program has been progressing slowly. With financial contributions from Disney Cruise Line and the Agricultural Development Organization, we’ve been able to purchase equipment, soil, seedlings, etc., and will now introduce elements of vertical hydroponic farming,” said Armaly. “Now students will plant sweet peppers, onions, lettuce, beets, cabbages, coconuts, and mango trees, and once harvested, they will develop business skills on how to trade their goods in the local market. They will learn that discipline and hard work pay off while helping The Bahamas achieve its goal of food security.”
Earlier this year, ADO worked with DCL VoluntEARS to build a backyard garden at the Ranfurly Homes for Children in Nassau, a local non-profit foster care organization. Since the Micro Gardens and School Farming Project’s launch in January 2022, the ADO has distributed more than 2,500 backyard farming kits in New Providence, Grand Bahama, Abaco and Eleuthera and has supplied 21 schools with starter farms.
“The school initiative is so important because we have the chance to impact the minds and hearts of young people, watching as they discover the joy and satisfaction of growing what they eat and eating what they grow,” said ADO’s Smith. “If we continue to grow and harvest in this way, we will reap a healthier and more food secure Bahamas.”