Destination Guide: Coco Hill Forest, St Joseph
by Karen Rollins Sep 4, 2023
Coco Hill Forest located in the Scotland District in the parish of St Joseph is a 53-acre rainforest consisting of tropical flora and fauna including hundreds of Royal Palm trees, bamboo groves, and tree ferns.
The agro-forestry site is owned and operated by Mahmood ‘Mood’ Patel, who took 30 years to find the land and has been cultivating it with crops and fruit trees since 2013 with the aim of creating a farm-to-table operation to supply the restaurant on his property at Ocean Spray Apartments.
He told Yello: “I knew I wanted a pristine site where I could plant herbs, greens, coconut trees, cocoa and coffee.
“The initial idea was to look back in my heritage and local heritage and come up with a sustainable farming technique, paying homage to older Barbadian agricultural and Indian practices and adapting it to the location.
“But the site is constantly evolving. We currently have 48 varieties of fruit trees in the forest, along with medicinal plants and we’re also becoming a plant repository.”
Mood tapped into his agricultural heritage to turn Coco Hill into a viable project – his grandfather was a farmer – and spent hours researching various methods which he now uses at Coco Hill including permaculture, vertical farming, organic processes and terrace farming.
Mood admits that he made a few mistakes in the beginning and it took about two years before he was able to use what he grows in the restaurant.
He recalls: “It’s still a learning curve but after five years I became a lot more confident about the landscape. Month by month I’m able to take something off the list so we don’t buy eggs anymore or bananas, spinach, basil, ginger, turmeric or any greens”.
The guests at Ocean Spray, who are the beneficiaries of Mood’s efforts, are said to be “appreciative” of the local produce, and he hopes that in the future the restaurant will be able to rely completely on the forest for supplies.
Meanwhile, Coco Hill is developing into a must-see tourist attraction where Mood, or his employee Romanus, are happy to take tourists and locals on a two to three-hour hike and share their passion for the island and its environment.
Mood adds: “The days of sun, sea and sand are over because people are looking for experiences.
“We’re marrying agriculture and tourism and creating a symbiotic relationship, which tourists value and respect, and the country benefits because agrotourism can create jobs and cut the food import bill.”
For more information and to book a guided hike, visit the official Coco Hill Forest website.