The Denbigh Agricultural Show was a real eye opener for us. We have just begun our small farm in Broughton, Westmoreland. JEM Farms, where we specialize in organically grown exotic mushrooms – no, I mean the kind of edible mushrooms that fine restaurants and cruise ships currently import … Pearl Oyster, Blazie, Paddy Straw, and the like. Forget Button mushrooms and Portabellos are just overgrown Button mushrooms and so passé. We’re talking real gourmet here! At JEM (which is an acronym for Jamaican Exotic Mushrooms) we also organically grow tomatoes and bananas, coconuts, scotch bonnet peppers, broccoli and cucumbers. We just recently harvested our first batch of Silver Queen Sweet Corn! We grow virtually anything that guests at nearby Lost Beach Resort might be interested in eating. We have wild mango trees, horses grazing in our fields and ducks soon come – yum!
We also have a plan – to help Jamaicans produce mushrooms for profit … anyone with banana or coconut trees in their yard can do it. JEM Farms Co-op sells spawn (essentially mushroom seeds) to the interested and buys back the fully-grown mushrooms for marketing and distribution. JEM also offers free classes to those who wish to participate. Little did we know what a huge success we would be at the Denbigh Agricultural Exposition! Our little booth offered more than just posters and information – we gave away free samples of sautéed Jamaican grown Oyster mushrooms. The reaction was exciting!
Some Jamaicans refused to sample … their experiences with the wild and poisonous ‘Junjun’ mushrooms made them wary. Those in the know, including the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Roger Clarke, came back for seconds! P.J. and his entourage stopped by the booth, where he declared that Westmoreland would surely win the competition given our innovative new program! Over 100 people signed up for our Co-op and the phone has been ringing off the hook. Visitors all the way from Kingston arrived just days after the show to see our operation and discuss growing techniques with our mycologist, Russ Caldwell. We began JEM Farms with self-sufficiency in mind. Now we are the sponsors of a major program in Jamaican agricultural development for export. And yes, Westmoreland did indeed win!