Recently, The Island School’s Permaculture Team has been conducting research on food sourcing in South Eleuthera. From small, subsistence-based farms to convenience stores in the settlements, discovering the island’s food sources are of the utmost importance to this research team. Unearthing where local Bahamians get their food from, and how it got there, is critical to grasping the complexity of - and finding solutions to - local food insecurity.
A foodshed is a holistic snapshot of all of the food sources in a given area. Learning about the Bahamian foodshed, and more specifically our Eleutheran foodshed, gives us context and teaches us how to live well in a place. Though we are privileged to have access to fruits and vegetables grown here on The Island School campus, many Bahamians only have access to packed, processed foods. Unlike in developed countries, there are not many grocery stores or bodegas to buy fresh foods at. Instead, many settlements have small convenience stores that sell only a handful of candies, snacks, and non-perishable canned goods.
Bahamian cuisine has a rich culture and history, and culinary influences stem from places like West Africa and the southern United States. One of the more common meals on-island, however, is instant Ramen due to its convenience, cost, and long shelf life. Ramen has been called a staple food of the Bahamas. Dr. Allison Karpyn, a Fulbright scholar studying Eleuthera’s food security said, “I strongly suspect we have a Ramen epidemic on our hands, and healthy nations cannot be built on Ramen.” During one of our field trips, we got the chance to visit a local convenience store first-hand, and it was eye-opening to see the limited selection of fresh foods that they offer.
As the Permaculture Team tries to tackle the problem of “a nation built on Ramen,” we have been visiting local farms. Last week, we visited two farms, both run by Island School staff. The first was a small farm, located on the outskirts of Deep Creek, run by CSD’s own Joseph Elidieu. He maintains a more subsistence-based farm and supplies fresh fruits and vegetables to both locals and Island School teachers. Joseph cuts down small plots on his farm and burns the foliage to create a layer of potash to be used as a fertilizer. Working during his free time to maintain it, Joseph runs the farm himself and the work is very labor-intensive. When we visited Joseph’s farm, we were able to see what he plants and even try some of his delectably sweet bananas!
After leaving Joseph’s farm, we had the chance to visit a slightly larger and more traditional farm owned by Rodney, a cook in The Island School’s kitchen. Similar to Joseph, Rodney also runs his farm in his spare time, but it is considerably bigger and includes livestock, mixed vegetables, and a fruit nursery. His farm covers 25 acres, and much of it is under cultivation and irrigated extensively. From annual lettuces to perennial citrus trees, Rodney grows a little bit of everything on his family owned and operated farm which supplies local restaurants, as well as The Island School, with lots of their fresh produce and pork.
Though Eleuthera used to be considered the “breadbasket of the Bahamas,” there are currently not many local farms on island due to changing economies and cultures around farming. By visiting a few of the farms that remain, we hope to spread the word on where our food is from and encourage people to keep this generations-old tradition alive. Join the Permaculture Team in the weeks ahead to stay updated on The Island Schools journey to food security!