BASSERERRE, St. Kitts — Thirty-seven entrants have registered to participate in the 2021 National Backyard Garden Competition with 26 entrants in vegetable and 11 in the ornamental categories. The goal of the initiative by the Ministries of Tourism and Agriculture, are aimed at encouraging more locally grown food.
“The event is designed to promote healthy eating, as well as to encourage persons to beautify their communities and homes,” explained Shaline Welcome-Lewis, Community Tourism Officer. The competition was launched in October 2020.
“The project is to encourage the development of backyard gardening while increasing the awareness of healthier eating for persons with fresh daily consumption,” said Mrs. Welcome-Lewis. “We want to encourage locals to grow what they want to consume and with the economic impact that we have all endured recently we want to ensure that people can reduce their supermarket bills, while they eat healthier and spend less.”
The competition will be judged on plant cultivation and health (40 points), layout (15 points), and environment (25 points). A bonus segment using drone footage will allow persons to score an extra five points.
Under plant cultivation and health, participants are required to implement and adopt creative measures, demonstrate proper use of the garden space, have healthy plants, as well as label plants properly so they can be easily identified, just to name a few.
Kyle Flanders, Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, said that the physical layout of the garden is an important component of the competition.
“We are going to look and see exactly how you decided to lay out your garden, where the footpaths are, and the organization of plants in the garden,” said Flanders. “We want to know if you are going to pair the plants properly and we want to know that you have clear, comfortable access to your overall garden.”
Mrs. Therez Ambrose-Versailles, Tourism Research Officer, stressed the use of recyclable materials as recycling can help to protect the environment.
“We want people to use recyclable materials in their garden,” said Mrs. Ambrose-Versailles. “We will be able to see the impact of the recycled materials used. I want to see uniqueness when I enter your garden and what materials were used that I have never seen before.
“We want to have this wow factor when I enter your garden,” she said. “The sustainable aspect of the competition is important because it is not about just gardening for a competition but to be able to feed yourself and your family.”
There are participants from all around the island, including St. Peter’s, Sandy Point, Half Way Tree, Old Road, and Newton Ground.
In the vegetable section, the top three competitors will be rewarded while the top two will be rewarded for ornamental. Some of the prizes include an irrigation system, wheelbarrow, gardening tool kit, plaque, basket, and gardening hose with control head.
Advantages of backyard gardening
There are several advantages to be derived from backyard gardening,” explained Flanders.
“Subsistence farming is defined as farming or a system of farming that provides all or almost all the goods required by the farm family usually without any significant surplus for sale.
“Saving money is one advantage,” he said. “Everyone is concerned about their pockets. Therefore if you’re doing backyard farming you are going to reduce your supermarket bill.
“The second advantage he mentioned was that persons can eat healthier,” said Flanders. “People complain about the chemicals being put into the plants that are being imported. But, if you plant them yourself, you know what is in the ground, you know what you are doing. It’s as organic as organic can be. So therefore, there might not be a problem as it relates to that.
“The third advantage mentioned was food security. It would have just been a talking point back in the day, but COVID taught us that not anymore, we need to get this thing happening,” he said. “Therefore, we can use backyard gardening to make sure people have nutritious foods at their fingertips.”
Flanders said that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #2 deals with zero hunger by 2030, and that subsistence farming can help with this.