By Shari Simon
AFTER taking a leap of faith to transition their small kitchen garden into an extended agriculture project, a young couple from Rose Hall, East Canje, Berbice is elated to see positive returns from their project.
Agriculture enthusiasts, Junior and Satya Bascom, own and operate the ‘Canje Agri Center and Plant Shop,’ which they established last year.
The duo, speaking with the Guyana Chronicle, said they started the business as an additional source of income. Both of them had fulltime jobs. The goal of the shop was to be a one-stop for plant and fruit lovers who were unable to travel long distances to make plant-related purchases.
The challenge for the community before the Bascoms’ intervention was that plant nurseries were non-existent. Now, the couple is excited to bring a variety of new fruit, seedling, and agrochemicals to their local markets.
“We both love planting in our own way,” said Junior, who shared that establishing the business involved a combination of previous gardening experience as well as new knowledge gained from YouTube tutorial videos on building greenhouses.
Soon after gaining their new knowledge, the couple began collecting wood and other material to build their greenhouses.
“We went through the mole with our hand to make sure that it’s loose and had no grain in it before we planted our seeds,” Junior noted.
First, they grew passion fruit plants after drying and sowing the seeds from 1,000 passion fruits.
Unfortunately, they later faced a series of challenges which resulted in reconstruction of the greenhouse four times before achieving planting success.
“We did get frustrated at times but we never gave up,” Junior stated. Eventually, they ventured into planting non-seasonal produce such as cabbage, tomatoes, celery and peppers.
At the time, Junior shared that his mother had recently returned from overseas with a few strawberry seeds for them. “The strawberry seeds that we got were not packaged seeds but rather strawberry seeds from farmers abroad,” he said.
By researching how best to plant the seeds in a tropical environment, they got to work ensuring that the essential resources were acquired.
According to the couple, the strawberry seeds were germinated from local and imported soil mixed together. The soil had to be tested with a tester to determine whether its soil pH (Potential of Hydrogen) was suitable.
They explained that the strawberry’s germination process also included a stratification process that involves mimicking the defrosting period similar to overseas. Between three to four weeks, they noticed strawberry fruits growing and were left quite awestruck.
Excited, they ventured into other fruits. “We started with the dragon fruit plant and then grapes,” Junior said, adding: “with regular produce like tomatoes, we planted the plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes and we had some variety of peppers like ‘wiri wiri’ peppers, fireball peppers, chili peppers, cayenne peppers and the world’s hottest pepper, California peppers.”
Despite their planting success, a lack of recognition and sales for the rare produce meant they could not afford to continue growing and maintaining exotic fruit plants.
For a while, they even had to reconsider planting regular produce because farmers were unwilling to purchase exotic produce as they were afraid how consumers would react to it.
Fortunately, the ‘Farmer’s Market’ they attended was an excellent opportunity to promote their exotic plants, fruits, seeds and agrochemicals, as well as network with other agriculture enthusiasts and ultimately build their business portfolio.
“We didn’t know what to expect. People were amazed. We had apples, grapes, strawberry and dragon fruit on display. People wanted to touch the plants and couldn’t believe these fruits can grow in Guyana,” he expressed.
Motivated by the opportunities to enter new markets, increase their customer-base, and showcase local agricultural potential with exotic produce, they later attended the recently concluded ‘National Agri-Investment Forum and Expo.’
Junior went on to commend the Government’s decision to consider the creation of a local hemp industry. He envisions that with some added support and resources, many local farmers may be willing to explore planting exotic fruits and plants.
“There are a lot of products we import that can be found right here in Berbice, like the purple cabbage and broccoli,” he highlighted.
Fuelled by a mutual passion to continue expanding their business into a flourishing agricultural enterprise, the couple remains committed to promoting plant diversity in local communities and the country’s agriculture sector.
The ‘Canje Agri Center and Plant Shop’ is located at Rose Hall, East Canje, Berbice. For more information, the Bascoms can be contacted on (592) 614-8295.
This content was originally published here.