Pembroke Primary students tour JP St Mary’s banana farm
Students of Pembroke Hall Primary are quick to respond to questions about bananas posed by Tara Goulbourne (left), Commercial Manager at JP Tropical Foods, as they prepare to step on to farm during the “Plant with JP” farm tour.
Fifty-eight primary students gained first-hand knowledge of how bananas reach from the soil to the table during a special kid-friendly tour of Jamaica Producers (JP) St Mary’s banana farm in St Mary on Tuesday.
The students, who attend Pembroke Hall Primary in Kingston, learned how the bananas they eat are produced, from planting through to harvesting, inclusive of washing and packing the fruits for transport. They even got the opportunity to plant 10 banana suckers or young bananas, which was well received by all.
“I learned how to care [for] bananas, how to plant it and how to wash it,” said Grade 4 student Shaniqua Smith. “My favourite part was when the man was cutting the banana and put it in the water, and the woman taught us how to do it well.”
Her sentiments were echoed by fellow schoolmate DeJohn Lewis, a third-grade student, who said after learning how to plant and care for bananas he would be eating a lot more in the future.
“I planted a banana tree, and I learned how to care for bananas,” he said. “They are a nice fruit to eat.”
“The Plant with JP St Mary” programme is the third phase in the company’s multipronged approach to bringing high-quality, hearty food to students in the public education system while educating them about the numerous benefits of eating a wholesome breakfast.
The tour falls under the company's $50 million year-long initiative dubbed, “The JP St Mary’s Heritage Project…Growing Goodness Together,” which was created to supply locally grown green bananas to public educational institutions at a 75 per cent discount price of $5 a pound back in 2018.
JP Farms Quality Manager, Shennel McKenzie (front, centre) describes how the hands are removed from the bunch, while Dehander, Michael Belnavis (front, left) demonstrates to the Pembroke Hall Primary students during their “Plant with JP” farm tour
Tara Goulbourne, commercial manager at JP St Mary’s, said the tour was the first of many planned by JP Foods to educate kids about how bananas are produced in Jamaica in a fun and exciting way.
“This is the first in our series of Plant with JP St Mary tours where we invite schools to come in and visit our farm,” she said.
“We hope to host two schools per month for the remainder of the year. But more importantly, we want to impart important information about the process related to producing the bananas that go into the breakfast meals they consume in our school feeding programme, and we wanted to bring home the fact that JP St Mary bananas are 100 per cent Jamaican grown, 100 per cent natural and ripened for consumption here in St. Mary. We are serious about farming and as we commence our 90th-anniversary celebrations, we move to ensure that we play our part as good corporate citizens.”
While lauding this phase of the Heritage project, Principal of Pembroke Hall Primary, Ricardo Valentine noted that despite having a 4-H club many of his students do not know much about what they are eating and where it comes from.
“It is important that we get students to learn about the nutritious and natural foods available from the rich soil of our island. And once they know these crops and how they're grown, then they’ll be able to make better and healthier choices.”
Pembroke Hall Primary School is one of 20 schools across the island to recently benefit from the Eat Well with JP breakfast initiative.
During their visit, the students saw a live demonstration of how bananas were cut and washed and packaged at the Polo Common Packing House. They also ventured into the farm to learn interesting titbits like why the fruits are covered with sleeves, how far apart they are planted and how long it takes banana trees from planting to producing fruit.