Most days, on my commute to work in a jam-packed mini-bus, I try not to bring more attention to myself than necessary. I stand out. But today was a good day to stand-out as most of the eyes glaring in my direction weren’t directed at me, as if to say, “What is this Mr. Chin doing here?” Instead, most of the attention was on the glass cup with the pear (avocado) seed I was carrying to work. Now the eyes seemed to ask, “What is this Mr. Chin doing here and why is he holding a pear plant?”
About a year ago, I was coming up with some ideas (as I usually do) for some projects that Michelle and I could do around the house. I had some big dreams, most of them channelling the expertise and skills of my fellow green initiative/environment volunteers, to do things like build a chicken coop (because we love eggs), creating a raised garden for vegetables and flowers, starting a compost pile, and creating a fruit tree nursery. After some thoughtful planning and realistic consideration (a.k.a. speaking to Michelle) it became apparent that many of these projects would be difficult to maintain sustainably. Trial and error, as well as limited time and resources, showed me that one project was possible and had great potential – I would grow trees, avocado trees to be specific.
Thanks to a quick and easy tutorial I found through Google, I was well on my way to growing my trees. Having started late in the season, I was only successful in growing three. The first was given to a good friend which we found out later was destroyed by a hungry goat. The second died because of a neglectful caretaker (me). But the third, the magnificent and lucky third tree, founds it’s way to a perfectly sized pot and grew over the next year and is now being planted at our community center. See pic below.
In Jamaica, it’s very common for most people to have one- if not many- fruit trees on their property. Some were intentionally planted and others were grown from remains of fruit eaten and the seeds cast in the yard. Though many Jamaican communities are financially challenged, many are fortunate that through intentional and unintentional actions, they have fertile lands and fruit trees that have been feeding and keeping them alive. One of my fellow volunteers on island shared with me about a US NGO that focuses specifically on this topic called Trees that Feed. It was a simple yet profound realization for me: “Why don’t we grow more trees and feed more people?”
Back to today.
I brought a seed to work to share with my staff and community how they can grow avocado trees on their own. I was stoked how excited they were, especially how the primary school kids took to it. One of our staff members even created a sign to ask people to not touch it and to ask her about it. I’ve read that it takes many years before a tree bears fruit (it may not at all) but there is a sense of hope that the more trees we plant, the better chance we have of producing food. We have big dreams to plant mango, ackee, banana, plantain, papayas, and pineapples in the backyard of the community center that one day will provide food for our programs. My hope is that my PC volunteer successor will start a tree nursery and teach people how to grow their own trees and give some away to those that need it. Maybe they will start a compost and chicken coop helping my other crazy ideas come to fruition as well.
Michelle found and posted the following quote in our house that sums it up: