Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs Dean Jonas has underscored the importance of the Homes, Families and Garden Festival to the overall growth of the agriculture sector and the aesthetics of communities across Antigua and Barbuda.
He made the point Thursday night while attending the Awards and Prize Giving Ceremony for the event, which was hosted by the Community Development Division within the Ministry of Social Transformation, Human Resource Development, Youth and Gender Affairs.
“The garden festival is very important to the Ministry of Agriculture. This is also a beautification exercise using plants to beautify our country; flowers and flowering plants. This is my first time attending, and this is something I would like the Ministry of Agriculture to continue to support fully to ensure that we beautify our country and not just our homes but our community on a whole, so we fully support this programme,” the Agriculture Minister stated.
Although this has already started based on the awards that were presented at last night’s function, Minister Jonas said he would still like to see more community-level involvement, including schools, churches, sporting groups and community clubs.
“They all need to get more involved in this. It’s a great way to not only feed ourselves and our families, but it is also a way to beautify Antigua and Barbuda to make it more attractive for us who live here every day.”
Larry Francis of Indies Greens won the business category and Minister Jonas was selected to present him with his award.
The overall winner of the festival went to a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Curtis Thomas, to whom Governor General Sir Rodney Williams presented the award.
These winners were understandably elated by their achievements and had some advice for farmers or persons interested in becoming involved in backyard gardening.
Mrs. Thomas urged people to consider the benefits of growing their own produce.
“Sometimes we spend a lot of money buying our stuff at the market. But rather than doing that all the time, you can put some effort into getting seedlings, seeds; plant a lot of stuff in your own backyard, you would save a lot of money and you will feel so good when you see that they actually start growing; you will feel excited about it and would want to just continue doing it,” Mrs. Thomas shared.
Her husband, for his part, had this to say: “Eat local. You can start your garden in your backyard and plant your own fruits and vegetables, plant your herbs , plant your spices, plant anything in your hand and grow them naturally and enjoy them,”.
The Thomases have been tending to their farm, located at Follies Development, for about four years now.
It was their second time participating in the HGF Festival. In 2016 they captured first prize for herbs and spices, and third prize for flowers.
Francis from Indies Greens described what he said was a great feeling to celebrate the achievements of farmers and backyard gardeners in such a big way.
“It is such a wonderful experience to be recognized for some of the hard work that you put into farming. I’m telling you it’s not particular easy, so when you get recognized like this it’s a good feeling.”
Francis urged more persons to participate in the exercise and get recognized for their hard work and accomplishments. He said gardens are relaxing and therapeutic.
Indies Greens is a tilapia and hydroponics eco-friendly farm operating for about nine years. Francis encouraged more persons to get involved in this type of farming technology as, according to him, it has many benefits. He said he is always available to work with the Ministry of Agriculture to further enhance the sector in any way possible.
The 10 year old Homes, Families and Gardens Festival Competition was held under the Theme “Think Beautification for the Nation’s Health and Wealth.” The first judging cycle was held in May 2018, and the second in October 2018.