Jeffrey Town, A Small Player in the Breadfruit Industry
Jeffrey Town Farmers Association 2015
This paper will introduce you to the award winning community of Jeffrey Town, the new home of Breadfruit Festival in Jamaica since 2005. It will tell you a little of its history and characteristics before looking more specifically at matters breadfruit.
The organization of the Breadfruit Festival in this community has been undertaken by the Jeffery Town Farmers Association (JTFA). The festival events will be described in general and the partner agencies identified. An outline will be presented of activities undertaken from the planting of trees to the development of a vast array of products that have been created and offered for sale locally. Some of the problems faced as well as the achievements will be discussed, with special mention of the Jeffrey Town breakfast programme.
The broad findings of the development team in Jeffrey Town will be indicated, the community has also contributed to research carried out by graduate students from the University of Minnesota USA. Lessons learnt from this research experience will be described and a few recommendations from community-based research will be offered. The JTFA desires to move to the next level of production. The next steps of the organization are brought into focus and there is a call to action for all players in the breadfruit industry.
Jeffery Town is located in the north eastern portion of Jamaica, formerly called Victoria Town and subsequently named after the Jeffrey’s family that owned the Salisbury property from as far back as 1838; the other property of note is Decoy. It is fifteen miles in any direction from each of the rural towns, and forty-five miles from the capital Kingston. It is at an elevation of seventeen hundred feet and considered deep rural because of the social infrastructure in place and the quality of the access roads to the village. Jeffrey Town has nine different churches a school building made of containers joined together because the previous building opened February, 1928 was destroyed by fire in September 1996.
The community is officially made up of six districts although locally we have made our own divisions so that we have nine within the designated boundaries. In the census of 2011the population was recorded as 2982, forty seven percent of which is female distributed between eight hundred and seventy seven households however many share dwellings with the number listed as six hundred and thirty seven. The same data source states that unemployment is at 33% of those at working age between 15 and 65; and of those working 42.2% is engaged in agriculture growing ground provisions, cash crops and banana on family owned lands.
The data doesn’t speak to the reluctance of young people to go into agriculture, the number of teenage parents in the community and the dearth of students able to matriculate at the end of high school to access further education, or even the pervasive poverty. If you look past the topical beauty of the location and relatively low crime rate excluding preadial larceny, one has to ask what this community would be like without its renown for self reliance and its drive for development. Since 1991 when the Farmers Association formed as a cooperative Jeffrey Town has been seeking ways to redress the lack of investment in a marginalized area in line with its mission statement to “… harness all available assistance for community development using agriculture as the platform; to sustainably develop its human and physical resources, for the creation of opportunities to include all the residents of Jeffrey Town, especially the youth and women to achieve social and economic stability.”
The group members have embarked on their own research to find viable alternative crops and innovative ways to use traditional ones, breadfruit being the product most commonly aligned to Jeffrey Town, the members also started the practice of self assessment firstly of the community and then of ourselves as a group to see how best to redress the major challenges in front of us: firstly mechanization, irrigation and the environment for the farmers and income generating activities for the under or unemployed.
The Breadfruit Festival concept was instigated by the newly installed president of the group, Wordsworth Gordon in 2005 to help raise funds for a tractor for the group, the mechanization ambitions, and community tourism to bring income to the community. This initiative was to take a life form of its own. We didn’t just talk about breadfruit, we began to live it, we developed a line of products made from breadfruit rekindled from childhood memories and then featured a culinary competition at the festival to highlight the versatility; entrants were asked to provide a recipe card with their dishes. We printed a twelve page brochure that included a basic history of breadfruit, planting instructions, nutritional details and six recipes of our own. It is unfortunate to note that these same recipes and those of the contestants were later printed elsewhere without honest reference to the origin.
We supported the vigorous local festival advertising campaigns on Jet FM, the community radio, by advertising on nation radio stations, Power 106, News Talk 93 and Hot 102FM and having them on site for an event each; further exposure was given by going to national television, both local stations and demonstrating some simple breadfruit dishes and talking about features of the festival. Since the initial event on the Salisbury Property in Jeffrey Town there have been five more stagings, 2006/7/8/10 and 2012 when the event was held in Gayle. The name was changed in 2007 from Jeffrey Town Breadfruit Festival to St. Mary Breadfruit Festival and the next staging is scheduled for 2016 in Port Maria, the capital of St. Mary.
People came each year in their hundreds; locals, regional visitors plus those from further afield, and the cry is ever, when will the next festival be? It should be noted that at each staging of the event, July or August, breadfruit had to be sought outside of the community, most often from Portland; the local climate means that our crop is very rarely available before September and so the event featured the opportunity of eating out of season roasted breadfruit with everything as well as an eating competition. The breadfruit races were great fun plus throwing the breadfruit competitions, DJ sing offs and related cultural dancing and the aforementioned culinary competition. Food manufactures had stalls along with community vendors and state agencies.
The entertainment was largely local and supported by the national cultural commission. The entertainment was essential, but it was balanced with important informational packages, flyer and posters about breadfruit specifically and general nutritional information supplied by Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI).
Although the events didn’t make financial profit for the organization itself, participants met their objectives and it was reported repeatedly to be an excellent product, with vast newspaper coverage. Our location was the main factor in the lack of a headline national sponsor for the festivals, hence the intended move to the parish capital for the next event. The raised awareness about the versatility of breadfruit opened our own eyes to the possibility of commercial opportunities and was the driver behind our tree planting campaign and the means of introduction to other players in the industry.
The state agencies, RADA rural agricultural development agency, JCDC, Jamaica cultural development commission and SDC social development commission, assisted the organization in varying degrees at every staging of the festival plus the Members of Parliament, the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica, private investors, corporate Jamaica and UNDP LIFE.
In 2011 we were introduced to Trees That Feed Foundation, (TTFF) a charitable organization based in North America, their focus to plant one million fruit trees.
According to the TTFF, Jamaica’s breadfruit tree population decreased from 2.3 million trees in the 1950’s to just over 43,000 trees in 1986, though with numbers increasing marginally over the last 25 years. (TTFF, 2012)
This partnership enabled us to source breadfruit seedlings. Previously between 2007 & 2010 we had planted sixty-two breadfruit trees from a total of twelve acres of trees planted, about 10%, including in 2007 a one acre breadfruit orchard adjacent to the festival site, these trees are now mature and are producing a substantial amount of breadfruit annually and can be located on the Breadfruit Actors Map produced by Randika De Mel & Afia Adaboh the second set of graduate students from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota who located in Jeffrey Town for a short time whilst completing their research in 2014.
Since 2011, we have planted four hundred breadfruit trees including 100 of the Ma’afala variety within the next fifteen acres of fruit trees, equaling more than 50% of trees planted and it should be noted that these seedling were donated to the organization along with other trees.
We were able to reciprocate in this partnership by attending the Chicago Flower Show in March 2011 and 12, at that time the major fund raising event for TTFF. Wordsworth and Ivy Gordon braved the chill of the Mid-west in March and took dried breadfruit shreds, breadfruit flour and vacuum packed breadfruit to display they also contributed to the sharing the knowledge of the value of breadfruit as a means of reducing hunger in the developing world, its great versatility plus an option for gluten intolerant people.
Another partner is Diamond Ridge Processors where we are able to source breadfruit flour, a very useful resource as we have found since 2014 the amount of product we dry and mill for ourselves is not sufficient to meet our market demands.
In the summer of 2012 the first four graduate students at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota Daniel Backman, Kristy Graham, Marvin Samuel and J.B. Scherpelz spent three months based with us in Jeffrey Town they produced a paper titled “An Assessment of the Commercialization of Breadfruit”.
The properties of the fruit information were taken from the Breadfruit Institute: Carbohydrates [which] are the main source of energy with low levels of protein and fat and a moderate glycemic index. It is a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium with small amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and iron. Some varieties contain small amounts of folic acid. Yellow-fleshed varieties can be a good source of provitamin A carotenoids (Breadfruit Institute, 2012). The same source we used for our publication in 2005.
The graduate team described breadfruit as having “a unique production niche” and identified the list of value added products in their final paper as flour, jam, liquors, prepackaged mixes, and vacuum packed after being roasted. All of which were produced by Jeffrey Town Farmers Association for sale at local fairs and of course the breadfruit festivals.
In addition to those mentioned above there are the fresh baked items: puddings, pies, tarts and quiches, sweets made from the shooters and drinks.
To achieve a list of products like this the fruit has to be used in every stage of the edible life span. From the shooter as mentioned above, to the young fruit in the sweet tarts when it is treated like apple, sweetened and spiced, to the ripe fruit which is blended and strained before being coaxed into a jam that resembles a soft curd or treacle.
Breadfruit is gluten free, so when using the flour a stabilizer such as xanthan gum or cassava starch is often required for leavening of baked goods. Jeffrey Town pre mixes for sale a festival mix (a type of fried dumpling) a muffin mix and the latest editions, the porridge and pancake mixes; enabling the hesitant or timid cook to use with ease this locally grown product.
Our community events, farmers meetings and training participants at refreshment have been the ‘guinea pigs’; we have used the products and promoted them at every opportunity. We have been at Denbigh, the annual national farm show of Jamaica with this and other organic items consecutively for the last five years. We have even had specific value added products training for the women’s group centered on breadfruit and its uses and sought sponsorship to allow for public sampling. We have been supplying breadfruit flour for porridge making since September 2014 to the Jeffrey Town Basic School for the breakfast support programme along with other items funded by Jamaica YES (Youth Education Support) a small charity run by a group of Jamaican’s living in Dallas USA. At the beginning of the next school year we will begin supplying Jeffrey Town Primary School too, however we will supply both schools with the premixed breadfruit and banana porridges to ensure quality standardization. The packages are two and a half pounds each and only water has to be added before cooking.
This constant involvement with breadfruit has highlighted certain facts;
- Breadfruit products are acceptable on a taste test basis when suitable mixed with spices or with chocolate and the Breadfruit Institute has supplied the nutritional value information.
- Breadfruit is able to substitute for potato based product if cooked and crushed while still hot. Examples, hash brown, fish cakes, meatballs or fritters.
In this form it can be used for crusts- pizza or quiche type dishes
- Breadfruit Salad is an easy alternative to potato
- It can be used on a 50- 50 basis with wheat flour and requires no special treatment with regard to leavening.
- The flour is extremely absorbent and most recipes are improved if a little standing time is allowed for the grains to swell before cooking, especially when frying.
- Breadfruit flour in comparison to wheat flour is expensive and not a viable purchase option for people on limited income. However the products and dishes developed can be incorporated into the lives of the most financially challenged if they have access to fresh breadfruit or have a tree of their own. Fruits that cannot be consumed as freshly roasted or boiled can be dried, milled and stored as a main meal starch alternative.
This is the practice being employed in our community with both breadfruit and banana.
The involvement of the farmers association with breadfruit is now a decade long, there have been set backs, we have met obstacles along the way, the first in having reliable planting stock for our farmers, this problem is now relieved by the intervention of TTFF, however establishing orchards in our communities when irresponsible livestock owners allow their goats to roam free is extremely challenging. The obvious answer to fence the fields is financially prohibitive and has resulted in a 70 to 80% survival rate for the trees in our community and in one instance only 20% survival. It should be noted that establishing an orchard is expensive, the land preparation plus the weed and grass control for three years before first yield would exclude many, and in our community most. The cost of borrowing money in Jamaica is always more than 10% if it can be found and the terms for collateral supported, hence the need for assistance for small farmers to establish orchards.
When describing the community background you will remember the poor road infrastructure; is this the reason why fit fruits are no longer systematically collected for export? Do people abroad not want fresh breadfruit, or do they as too many of us do now, prefer wheat flour products, fried potatoes or rice?
How much of the annual breadfruit yield actually goes to waste?
With the best will in the world, breadfruit is still allowed to waste here, many feel that the drying and milling process too arduous, overlooking the obvious that money saved from purchasing at the food store can be used for other things thereby increasing ones disposable income. In fairness it should be noted that the level of moisture in the air here means drying days have to be selected carefully as this affects the visual quality of the finished product and it should also be noted that the fruit should not be too fit as ripening will take place and affect the taste. An improved or more efficient mill must be found. Currently we use an Omega IV model from Compatible Technology International a charitable organization in the United States, we have had it motorized but it leaves much to be desired and must be replaced if we mean to move from being a small player in the industry to one of substance through volume.
Jeffrey Town Farmers efforts have been called “the tip of the arrow” in regards to impact in the raising of awareness of breadfruit and its possibilities, but that hasn’t stopped people from trying to take our credit again, this time with the porridge mix. An article in the Jamaica Gleaner dated 28th May 2015 has other people claiming to be part of the development process of the product when in fact what they did was cook and sample the dish and invite the journalist to the event. This has forced us to explore the avenue of having our products trademarked when our intention was to share so that the drive of TTFF and the Rotary clubs to support a school feeding programme using local starches could grow and many more people benefit, not least our young basic school children.
We are noting more often the request to see our products on the supermarket shelves, particularly the flour and muffin mix. This is clearly our next and most pressing challenge to move from demonstrators and lobbyist to manufactures and suppliers. The work at ground level must continue, local people must again make the best use of local foods, the changing climate will force this upon us, the last El Nino effect in 2009 caused a sharp rise in the price of grains because it shows itself to us most often as drought during an upcoming dry season; we are now advised that a new warming of the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean is taking place, bad news when you consider Jamaica last year endured its worse drought for thirty five years, and again now far below normal rain fall for April, May and June.
Conclusion and Recommendation
Over the past decade Jeffrey Town Farmers Association has been recognized for its development work across the community, for greening the environment, redressing land degradation, most recently at the Sasakawa Awards for disaster risk reduction activities and the Equator Prize in 2014. An integral part of each award has been the incessant drive for food security. Planting trees, breadfruit trees, making innovative new products from locally grown starches and sharing the ideas and the practices locally and internationally; but most importantly for not just talking about change, but leading the change.
In March of this year the Caribbean Development Bank launched the US $650,000 Jeffrey Town Integrated Disaster Risk Reduction Project. It has three major components but 50% of the funds are allocated to climate resilient agriculture and our plans for breadfruit are included. A drying house, a mill and a bureau of standards certified production space. A clear indication of our intention to produce more and find a way to bring the value added products to the local and international market as a business venture.
This is a call for action, every player in the breadfruit industry should firstly be doing all they can to increase the domestic consumption of breadfruit. Secondly processing all remaining production yields and thirdly in collaboration with national agricultural agencies, Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute’s replacement organization and local health departments coherently and consistently advocating for strategic messaging to support consumption of locally grown foods. Prospective investors in the Diaspora should consider investing in an opportunity of this sort; this is social enterprise at its best. Endorse a breadfruit and local starch breakfast school feeding programme, it works at three levels, our children are fed, our farmers find another outlet for their produce in a value added form and best of all we begin to change the eating habits of the youngest generation.