Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Another Successful Day of Grafting

Local farmers and agriculture experts were enthusiastic about putting their knowledge into action and practicing their new skills on the second day of the Grafting Seminar.

In the morning, Dr. Sreenivasan described the history and advantages of grafting as a natural way to control and improve tree productivity. Grafting encourages farmers to think critically, observe, and monitor their trees to identify the healthiest trees with the highest yields.  Young branches or off-shoots (called scions and chupons) are collected from these strong trees and attached to seedlings.  If the grafting is successful, the genetic material from the healthy tree will grow on the seedling, passing on its strong characteristics.

Nigel Gibbs from the Ministry of Agriculture helps participants find branches to use for grafting.
Participants watch a grafting demonstration by Dr. Sreenivasan
Participants watch a grafting demonstration by Annelle John-Holder
Special thanks to Maran Nursery for hosting the seminar and helping provide trees for all our participants!
So far, participants learned about grafting and budding.  There are a few different techniques for each, and farmers were encouraged to experiment with all of the techniques.  Once they become familiar with the techniques, they can learn to perfect and focus on one or two of them.  It takes up to a few months to see the results, so grafting requires a lot of patience and practice.

Nigel Gibbs from the Ministry of Agriculture gets a better view of the demonstration!
The participants were a diverse group of farmers, agriculture extension workers, representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and young people interested in farming.  Everyone brought a unique perspective and all were excited to learn new skills.

Greenhouse facilities at the Maran Nursery.
Our workers Rawldon and Kimon practicing grafting techniques.
A side-grafted seedling by our employee Rawldon!
After the seminar finished, Dr. Sreenivasan, Anelle and Vinosh got a tour of the chocolate factory with Jim Mort. The factory will produce authentic Grenada chocolate with cocoa beans from many of the farmers we work with!  
Jim Mort, building manager at the chocolate factory, giving a tour.
Afterward, they came to tour CFFI's cocoa farm. They were impressed with the work we've done so far, and gave us valuable advice for the trees. They helped us to identify healthy new trees to nurture, and suggested monitoring which trees produce the most in order to start grafting.
Dr. T.N. Sreenivasan, Annelle John Holder and Vinosh Jadoo tour the cocoa farm.
The Cocoa Research Centre experts giving Paula and Larry Burdick advice on grafting opportunities on the cocoa farm.
Paula and Dorise with the grafting experts from Trinidad
Grafting is a great way for farmers to gain control over their trees.  The seminar is so important because it exposes the farmers to advanced techniques they can do themselves.  With these skills, farmers are empowered to improve their yields and even control for flavors, without having to rely on external resources or agencies.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Grafting Seminar: Day One was a Success!

The first day of our Grafting Seminar was a huge success!  Our original goal was to have 20 local farmers attend, but thanks to such a huge interest the turn out was over 40!

Paula and Dorise welcome the participants and introduce the grafting experts.

In collaboration with the Grenada Cocoa Association and Ministry of Agriculture, we're hosting three leading grafting experts from the Cocoa Research Centre in Trinidad.

We had a great turn out at the community center and Maran Nursery.
Lunch and snacks were served by local food vendors in traditional, hand-carved calabash bowls.
Dr. T.N. Sreenivasan, Annelle John-Holder and Vinosh Jadoo presented to the group in the morning, and in the afternoon everyone got to practice the different techniques on cocoa trees at the Maran Nursery in Gouyave.

Dr. Sreenivasan demonstrates how to cut healthy buds from the branch.

Participants watch a demonstration of Patch Budding.

A fresh bud attached to a small cocoa tree.
Grafting is a technical method of improving the cocoa productivity of an existing tree.  Our seminar provides farmers with the knowledge and tools they need to practice this technique on their own trees.  Grafting can improve the shape of the tree (to make harvesting easier), and allows farmers to reproduce trees that are high in quality (based on productivity, pest resistance, etc.).  It involves taking a bud from one branch and strategically attaching it to an existing tree, from which it will continue to grow!

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Special Thanks to Janice McElroy for the Generous Donation!

Thanks to a generous donation in honor of Janice McElroy's love of nature and wish to make the world a better place, CFFI was able to buy new cocoa trees for our farm.  

See the video below of Paula Burdick hanging a plaque in honor of Janice.

It's not too late to purchase trees!  Click here for more information.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Celebrating Independence Day!

Paula and Dorise are happy to be in Grenada celebrating 40 years of Independence!

School children celebrate National Colors Day (the day before Independence Day) with a colorful parade.
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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Cocoa Picking Day!

Tomorrow is cocoa collection day, which makes today cocoa picking day.

Starting at the furthest corner of the property, Rawldon, Kimon, Kelwin (a Grenada Cocoa Association intern) and I began picking early in the morning.  We aimed the long cocoa harvesting sticks and sliced ripe pods from all 274 trees.  Some pods grow high up and require patience and precision – the boys are much more skilled at it than me!

We gathered the yellow, orange and red pods into vibrant heaps throughout the farm to crack open for the pulpy white beans. This creamy pulp surrounding the beans is a sweet snack while collecting the beans, which are purple and bitter on the inside.

With a whack and twist of a machete we opened the cocoa pods.

Dorise joined us to scoop the beans into buckets and pick out the stringy fibers holding the beans together. 

The full buckets will be weighed and sold as “wet beans” to the Cocoa Association, who will dry and ferment the beans.  

Although you can get a better price for dry beans, the process can be a risky and time-consuming process.  Many farmers sell their beans wet, some walking five to six miles with heavy buckets.  This is why our yellow van, Fear Not, has been so helpful with transporting beans!

The leftover cocoa pods are left on the soil, or in our compost bins, and add nutrients back into the ground. 

Yesterday we turned the compost in our bins. It looks great, and will be sold to farmers at a cheaper price than typical fertilizer.  

CFFI’s plan is to use this as an incentive to encourage more farmers to use organic methods to fertilize their crops and control weeds.

Check back tomorrow to find out how our cocoa did on selling day!