Principal of the Little Bay Primary and Infant School in Westmoreland, Keron King, says the school’s farm will be further expanded.
This expansion forms part of the school’s three-year plan to be a self-sufficient institution, the Principal told JIS News.
What began as a small school garden containing mostly vegetables, now has chicken coops for the growing of chickens and the production of eggs. The farm also produces callaloo, pak choi, pumpkin, cabbage, callaloo and other food items.
The farm supplies the school’s breakfast programme, from which 80 per cent of the institution’s students benefit.
“We are expanding in terms of our production. We are looking into getting rabbits, pigs and further diversifying the farm, because food security is an important part of our school improvement, considering the [COVID-19] pandemic and the number of families that have been impacted. We need to optimise our nutritional production and demand, as it relates to our students,” Mr. King said.
“Over the last few years, we have not purchased any protein for our school. We produce our own eggs and our own chickens consistently and, in some cases, we have supplied other schools that are having challenges meeting their own [nutritional] requirements,” he added.
The school has a generator-powered irrigation system which helps to water the school farm and supply some areas of the school’s infrastructure with water. A 20,000-gallon tank was also recently installed at the institution by Rural Water Supply Limited (RWSL).
The farm was started at the school through help from the Rockhouse Foundation, which pays a full-time farmer to oversee the farm.
“They are also in the process of getting additional top soil for the farm, so they have been very supportive of this initiative over the years, and I think they are very appreciative to see where we are in terms of this [initiative],” the Principal said.
He noted that charities such as Cornerstone Jamaica, members of the Little Bay community and the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information continue to support the school’s initiatives.
Mr. King said the 4-H Clubs recently provided fencing material for the farm, to ensure that it is secure.
He also highlighted that community members who became unemployed due to the pandemic often assist with the school’s farm and in return are given produce from the farm to assist their own households.
Meanwhile, the Principal informed JIS News that despite the school having classes online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, “hot meals are provided [at the school] for children whose parents may not be able to afford it”.
“We also distribute supplies to the needy members of the community, especially the elderly. We give them eggs and chickens. So, the farm provides food security, not just for the school but for the community,” he said.
To increase the number of students attending classes online, the school also did a tablet drive funded by the Cornerstone Foundation, where more than 35 tablets were distributed to children in need.
Mr. King added that Little Bay was among 10 primary schools selected by the Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB) for the donation of tablets. The Bureau donated four tablets to students of the school and this has increased the number of students attending classes online.
He also commended the teachers at Little Bay Primary and Infant for “going beyond the call of duty to make contact with parents to ensure that the students are accounted for online”.
Recently, Mr. King was awarded by The Mico University College’s 185-year celebration award for excellence in education.