BAMSI LETTUCE PROJECT
THE BAHAMAS Agriculture & Marine Science Institute (BAMSI) has struck gold, the green kind, with a new variety of lettuce, the Dov Romaine. The lush looking vegetable, known for its excellent taste, is thriving in the fields of Andros, and is quickly proving to be a cost-effective variety. This is the first time BAMSI has grown the Dov variety.
“We are yielding even more than we expected and the flavour is excellent by international standards. And even though it’s getting warm, the lettuce is still thriving so we will see how long it will flourish under these conditions, said Ayrett Lightbourne, BAMSI’s Farm Manager.
Initially planted about nine weeks ago, Mr. Lightbourne said the farm is slowly rolling out the lettuce, with about a third of an acre of lettuce planted each week.
“We plant tomatoes and other produce, but I grew romaine lettuce on my personal farm before joining BAMSI and I wanted to try this variety on a larger scale. Early on we went through different management practices to be able to introduce this crop to the market. Another factor also is that this is a multi-million-dollar crop and I wanted to be able to encourage Bahamian farmers to grow this as well,” Mr. Lightbourne said.
The training of the staff to support this new variety is also going well, Mr. Lightbourne said, adding that this component was a large part of the crop’s success. “A lot of [the staff] are not used to growing this particular crop, so we had to identify certain things, such as at what stage to cut the lettuce, where to cut the leaves, we had to teach them how to package it and take off the outer leaves and leave the pretty inner leaves intact. The lettuce can’t be left out in the field. They must go into the cooler within an hour and a half of being harvested, a cooler set at 42 degrees to keep them nice and crisp while being shipped. Every person must be reliable and dependable so the lettuce arrives in the best condition possible. We had to emphasize that this a more precise crop, and they have to stay on top of the management and care of it.”
The Dov lettuce takes six to seven weeks from planting to harvesting, which makes it a quick maturing plant and enables farmers to earn a significant amount of money in a short period of time. The wholesale market currently sells the lettuce at about $70 a case. BAMSI however, is selling the lettuce at a much lower cost to the retail consumer.
The success of this variety of lettuce in the warm climate of the Bahamas, means that health conscious Bahamians and backyard farmers can expand their options for healthy foods, while avoiding hefty sticker prices. Persistent rising food costs across the globe has meant that Bahamians are facing not only high prices, but a lower quality of imported produce, including lettuce. With BAMSI’s Dov project and as more farmers opt to include this crop in their rotation, the Bahamian consumer can now purchase produce less than five days from harvest, meaning fresher, better tasting and more nutrient rich foods added to their diet. Mr. Lightbourne said that for his next specialty project, he is looking at a different variety of iceberg lettuce.
“The head is small and soft, I’ve heard of two varieties that will give a better product, they may be more difficult to grow than the traditional variety, but I want to try if for our next season.”