What we're good at: Farming

School teaches children such lies.One such lie told when I was in school was that agriculture failed in The Bahamas.Common sense back then should've told me that this wasn't true. After all, people in my grandparents' generation were feeding themselves well into my teens. My father's mother hardly ever bought fresh fruit from any food store or outlet -- she had her guavas and bananas and hog bananas and plantains and hog plums and mangoes and coconuts growing in her back yard -- which was on East Bay Street, between Bay and Dowdeswell, a place which was "town" even when I was a kid. My mother's mother kept chickens in her yard on Delancey Street, a yard which was the real kind of yard, with a bunch of houses all in the same lot.And then I grew up and studied anthropology.  And I learned not only about the lie, but where the lie came from.  There's a myth, see, in the world, see, that says that technology is hierarchically stacked and that agriculture is better than horticulture which is better than foraging and fishing which is better than ... well, animal social organization.And in this world, it's true that agriculture failed in The Bahamas.  But what nobody tells you is why it failed.Because of the monolithic worldview that assumes that the history of Europe is the only history that any civilization can ever have -- a history that centres settlement around river deltas and grows cash crops and builds societies around agricultural farms that produce surpluses etc -- the kind of farming that works here in The Bahamas -- farming that is disparaged in literature and discussion as "slash and burn" farming but which is recognized by anthropologists as a valid adaptation to particular terrains and social organizations is ignored completely.  Forget the fact that one person in Long Island or Cat Island can not only feed himself but his entire family, including those who are scattered around the Bahamian archipelago, and all year round, with the range of crops grown on his land.  Forget the fact that the soil that lies trapped in our limestone pockets is not terribly deep but is extraordinarily rich, and produces vegetables and fruits that are pretty darn good -- and among the biggest I've ever seen (I still remember the cabbage I brought back with me from Long Island in 1995 -- huge and sweet and heavy as a cannonball).  Martha Stewart's raving about the produce she cooked with in Nassau doesn't surprise me in the least.But don't take my word for it.  Take word of the homemaking queen herself:

As I mentioned the other day, while I was in the Bahamas, I cooked a fabulous meal with Frederic Demers at Jean-George Vongerichten’s, Café Martinique. I wanted to know where this top chef finds all his beautiful produce and he told me about a wonderful gem of a farm called Holey Farm. I wanted to visit in the worst way, so I grabbed the television crew and off we went. We were greeted by Maria-Therese E. Kemp, who created this amazing place. Holey Farm gets its name because the growing areas are actually situated in the holes of limestone formations. It was very challenging to grow produce at first, in such rugged terrain, but Therese had perseverance and developed many special techniques. [The result:] a most unusual garden that many local chefs rave about!

The Martha Blog : Blog Archive : More from the Bahamas — Holey Farm