Backyard farming is more than planting seeds and hoping to yield abundant harvests of fruits and vegetables, it is about taking control of your health and pocketbook.
The United Nations General Assembly and World Rural Forum supported by over 360 civil society and farmer's organizations realizing the importance of backyard farming and families being able to feed themselves, launched the International Year of family Farming 2014 (IYFF).
IYFF aims to become a tool to stimulate active policies for sustainable development of agricultural systems worldwide based on farmer families, communal units, indigenous groups, cooperatives and fishing families.
The theme of IYFF is "Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth" and all effort is being made from the perspective of effectively combating poverty and hunger for a rural development based on the respect for environment and biodiversity.
On average The Bahamas imports $500 million in fruits and vegetables and studies have shown that that could be drastically reduced if focused attention is placed on all aspects of farming be it, commercial or right in one's backyard.
Thirty-one year old local backyard farmer, Luckner Timothee, wholeheartedly believes in tilling the soil to feed himself and his family and thanks to dedication, hard work and commitment to educating himself on proper, organic farming practices, he is eating well and shaving hundreds of dollars off his grocery bill each year.
Backyard farming has become a passion of Timothee and he recalls that starting a backyard farm, initially, was something he did to ward off boredom.
" In all honesty, I started my backyard garden five years ago as a result of pure boredom.
" It was the summertime, the Regency Theatre was closed and there was nothing to do so I decided I needed to engage in some activity to bide the time.
" A friend of mine Javan Hunt, who began his own backyard garden asked me to assist him at his home in Lewis Yard and I did.
" After witnessing what he was able to produce, a light bulb of sorts went off in my head and I thought to myself â Hey Luckner why haven't you started this a long time ago at your own home?"
" Immediately I began clearing the area around my home to cultivate it into my own backyard garden.
" The clearing itself was a two-year process; however, I'm grateful for the work Iâ ve put into it because I now have a rich and thriving garden from which I live," said Timothee.
" Ironically, my mother has been gardening for years. In fact, I grew up eating cassavas and pigeon peas that she grew, but somehow I never thought to pick up the farming habit or expand upon it because it seemed like a dirty 'job,'" Timothee revealed.
He noted after making the decision to cultivate his own garden, his eyes were opened to a new world in which he was able to grow what he wanted to eat from lettuce to strawberries and have complete control over what isles he did not need to go into at the grocery store.
" Since I began farming I have been able to grow vast varieties of vegetables and fruits, including multiple varieties of cabbage, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, lettuces, Swiss chard, peppers, bananas and sugarcane.
" Also in my garden I have collard greens, onions, arugula, basil, mint, chives, moringa, lemon (fever) grass, carrots, beets, pumpkin, pigeon peas, mung beans, coconuts, strawberries, cumquats, mangos, mamey sapote, papaya and so much more.
" With the availability of this myriad of vegetables, fruits and herbs in my garden, I have been able to significantly reduce my grocery bill and I know exactly what I eat," he said.
Timothee noted his diet is seasonally based, meaning he eats whatever grows in his garden during its season.
Also serving as a bonus for him is his talent in the kitchen and never being afraid to try and create new recipes that highlight the produce he uses.
" I am a good cook and I experiment with my fruits and vegetables coming up with various recipes so that I don't get bored with the fruits and vegetables I eat.
" An example of this is using pigeon peas for more than your average soup or pot of peas and rice instead, I use the pigeon peas to make a pattie or pair it with other fruits, vegetables and herbs to create new recipes," Timothee said.
According to Timothee, he oftentimes finds that he reaps much more than he and his family could ever consume and this allows him to bring his produce to the fruit and vegetable market for sale as well as have chefs and restaurants like Tim Tibbetts of "Flying Fish" purchase some of his produce to their kitchens.
The backyard farmer has an exotic variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs, which include Indigo rose tomatoes (black when ripe), Dragon carrots, Mung beans, Kohl rabi, Famosa cabbage and Ribbon sugarcane among other that he not only uses for new recipes but he educates himself about their nutritional value and how best they serve the health of the body.
" I think it is important for more Bahamians to utilize their backyards for the purpose of farming, developing health eating habits and as a therapeutic form or recreation.
" You learn to be come one with nature and you are able to sustain yourself besides, a lot of foods being grown today are pesticide, fungicide and herbicide coated and genetically modified and these chemicals pose a serious risk to our health.
" Corn is one crop that is completely contaminated and unless you grow it as with other fruits and vegetables organically you really should not be eating it at all.
" Again moneywise I hardly ever have to buy these things in the store because I grow them year round and am able to sustain myself and utilize my funds elsewhere.
" Now for some who may be skeptical about taking backyard farming on, trust me when I say it is worth the hard work and effort in fact, you reap so many benefits from it and you can also create your own business from it.
" I honestly believe a missing element too for many is knowing how to cook the produce but that too is childâ s play once you educate yourself on various cooking methods and recipes.
" So definitely backyard farming in my opinion is the way to go and we need to embrace it.
" Education is key and it helps you to dispel myths and falsified theories similar to the fact that, we were once told we could not produce some of the very same fruits, vegetables and herbs that I grow in my garden due to limestone, salty air etcetera but we can.
" I am glad the government is being able to see this and are helping persons create their own farms but more education and research needs to go into this so my passion can become that of my neighbors and everyone.
" Hey just wait and see and let strive throughout 2014 to join the International Year of family Farming initiative," Timothee said.
For more information on backyard farming, organic produce, recipes and utilizing bush medicines follow Timothee on his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pages/Grand-Bahama-Backyard-Farmers/191429667566389 and keeping reading The Freeport News.