Agriculture? In Aruba

I recently spoke to a friend, an agronomist, a man who deals with field crop production and soil management for a living. We talked about agriculture in Aruba.

According to my well-informed friend, agriculture is a three-way collaboration of soil, water and weather, all crucial aspects of food-production, offered less than perfect conditions in Aruba, thus anyone undertaking the daunting task of growing anything here, must think out of the box, and cannot rely on time-honored traditions, such as of planting peanuts in the cunucu.

He also said something important: Agriculture, contains the aspect of culture. Immigrants leaving Italy, Portugal and Spain, landing in Mendoza, Argentina or Napa Valley California, brought their grape growing, wine making culture along. It was part of their heritage, their way of life, and while they relocated geographically, they fell-back on their true and tried generational knowledge of cultivating crops, in their new homes.

It is no wonder that our Portuguese immigrant community, started gardening in Aruba. They imported agricultural knowledge. But that was not enough to scale up production and lay the foundation for modern day agriculture, here – except for our fantastic pepper farms making Madame Janette sauces. In recent years new farmers became a great addition to the island’s economy, they are aided by science and technology to grow greens, white button mushrooms and herbs, but their contributions do not amount to an economic pillar. Their farms provide some employment and a decent livelihood, but you must be passionate about it, otherwise it isn’t easy.

The new farmers include Petite Greens, Cunucu Fresh — expect the freshest seedless cucumbers, soon,  Happiponics, Cunucu 297, Cocolishi Greens Aruba, Aruba Eco Living, and perhaps many more I am unaware of.

These growers are visionaries, people with courage and determination, kudos to them.

Lorraine from Petite Greens told me about a new Urban Farm, located at Royal Plaza.

Tattoo artist Rachel Peterson always grew mushrooms, as a hobby, until one of her clients, favorite local chef Urvin Croes, told her she should make a business out of her hobby. She was admiring the mushroom tattooed on his arm, and they started talking.

When the pupil is ready the teacher appears.

Rachel now grows 18 species of wood-loving mushrooms in a tent, mimicking the mushrooms’ beloved levels of temperature and humidity. She finds mushrooms fascinating, besides being delicious,  with many health benefits attached, they have a long history on planet earth, perhaps on other planets too.

Rachel’s mushroom collection will soon include some medicinal varieties, she has applied for a permit, But meanwhile you are invited to buy a pound for Awg 25 to Awg 40, of Pink and Black Oyster mushrooms, De Ridder mushrooms, Italian Brown Oysters, King Trumpets, Black Pearl Kings, and many more, with beautiful names such as Blue and Golden Oyster mushrooms, Lion’s Mane, Lion’s Pride, even Lion’s Beard.

Rachel, a member of the Peterson family has always been creative, she graduated the Rietveld academy in Amsterdam and dedicated the last 13 years to her body arts tattoo shop, the Black Sheep, at Royal Plaza, where she cultivates a following of locals and visitors.

Who’s the Black Sheep, I asked. Any creative soul who offers a lot to the community, but it’s not always obviously clear how valuable he/she is.

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June 24, 2022
Rona Coster