Written by Stephanie Koathes

Organic Spotlight Ja: The Source Farm

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The organic movement in Jamaica is growing, slowly but surely. One farm flying the flag for organic farming in Jamaica is the Source Farm Foundation and Eco Village in St Thomas. We talked to Nicola Shirley-Phillips about the Source.

Tell me a little bit about the Source Farm Foundation and Eco Village. What do you do?

The Source is a multi-cultural, intergenerational eco-village. We are committed to natural living, holistic health and spirituality, and ecological and social stewardship. We are focused on learning and teaching organic farming and gardening, arts and culture, permaculture and self-sufficiency. The Source aims to be an innovative model community that is dedicated to respecting and restoring Mother Earth. We seek to foster personal growth and development and empower our community to be ambassadors of natural and progressive living.

Permaculture refers to agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.

How did The Source Farm come about?

We were established in 2005 to facilitate the need of Jamaicans in the diaspora to return home and to create a place of ecological stewardship and care. Blondel Shirley-Atawater, the founder of the Source Farm, left Jamaica in the 1980s in search of a greater opportunity and education for her children. After many years of work, Blondel felt that it was time to return home and get back to the source of what had sustained her and her family. Since 2005, the Source has evolved into a dynamic innovative model community demonstrating sustainable living, organic and natural farming, community development initiatives and a variety of approaches to assist in improving personal and interpersonal relationships.

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What steps do you take to make your farm as eco-friendly and sustainable as possible?

We look at all aspects of our living to make it more sustainable.  This means how we handle our human waste.  The food we grow and even the containers we use and the materials we bring onto the property.  We try to live off the grid which means we collect and store our water and use solar and wind for energy.

Why is it important?

We think of Source as a demonstration village.  We look globally for appropriate technology that will work well for Jamaica and demonstrate it.  We all need to be thoughtful in how we live, work and play on the planet.  We want to leave something good for the next generation.

How did you come to be passionate about organic farming?

I owned two restaurants for 14 years in Philadelphia and saw that most of the fruits and were not clean.  I started to have health challenges and then I looked at my diet.  Much of the foods we get are treated with pesticides or fungicides and we consume them daily.  I am choosing not to participate in that system anymore.  I am selecting instead to teach more people about organic farming and permaculture and giving people more options.

How are you sharing your knowledge of organic farming with others?

The Source offers a number of workshops and courses for people to learn about creating a healthy lifestyle.  One One Cocoa is a month-long intensive course teaching two weeks of permaculture and two weeks of organic farming.  Each month there is some learning opportunity.  At the Ujima Farmers Market, we are also working with the public to explain and demonstrate what we do.

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Where is produce from your farm available for purchase?

Currently, the produce from Source Farm is available at the Ujima Farmers Market in Kingston. Soon we will have a New Kingston location.  If folks want to order they can call us and we make arrangements with them.

Tell us about what you do on a day to day basis.

Each person at Source has daily responsibilities.  Currently, I am the Country Director for a USAID farming project.  My time is spent working with farmers and organising programmes.  Soon I will be a full-time farmer.

Do you have any advice on how people can be more eco-friendly?

The most important thing is to take a permaculture course and this will help you redesign your life and environment.

What would you like people to know about The Source Farm?

Source is just one space and we need more spaces like Source.  I would encourage more people to examine how they are living on the land and see if they can be more thoughtful.

What is your life philosophy?

My life philosophy is about creating balance in all things.

For more information on the Source visit their website or check them out in person at the Ujima Farmers Market held at 10 am to 3 pm on Saturdays at 22 Barbican Road.

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