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From cruise ships to soursop – with short crops in between

By Sydney Valere

For over 25 years, my line of work has been one of touring and guiding tourists and cruise ship passengers to all the major sites and attractions in both Trinidad and Tobago. I have also spent a significant number of years teaching tour guiding skills and techniques to many participants whose first careers and work disciplines were not in the tourism industry.

I’ve totally enjoyed my transport tourism career. No regrets whatsoever, as I made many friends from all around the world where we have always cross-exchanged our cultures and cuisine.

Almost every time, Trinidad and Tobago won the exchange as we are a very different and unique society as compared to many other countries around the world. I am not giving up Trinidad for any other country in spite of whatever challenges we may face and endure from time to time.

Then came ‘Mr Covid-19’. The cruise ship industry came to a crashing halt in a flash in early 2020. Faced with our first lockdown, all the odds and ends in and around the house that I found reasonably sounding good excuses not to do until tomorrow, suddenly found themselves being done one at a time.

In the midst of this though, I picked up home gardening like many other people who were also locked down at home.

I started planting the popular short crops like lettuce, cauliflower, sweet peppers, cabbage and so on, which were indeed very encouraging and rewarding. This was until unexpected and uninvited visitors came by.

In my tourism industry, I fell in love with nature and the Asa Wright Nature Centre became my second home. I fell in love with birds, butterflies, trees, flowers, and everything else that nature has to offer to mankind for our sustainable survival.

The natural habitat of birds is wonderfully amazing. For example, how many of us know that some species of birds naturally social distance from each other without us having to repeatedly tell them to do so? Sounds familiar? They can certainly teach us a lesson or two.

My unexpected and uninvited visitors are in fact the birds as they came daily for their healthy and natural breakfast of fruits and vegetables. Having a soursop tree in my backyard full of healthy fruits, different species of regularly seen birds often quarrel among themselves for their share of the ripe fruit.

I got up one morning and God directed me to the bird-picked soursop fruits to which I painstakingly removed all the seeds. This is the beginning of my success story as the photo speaks for itself.

I nurtured the seedlings with lots of love, care and attention and never missed one day of their fertilisation schedule. Daily, I continue to give God the praise and thanks for showing me this path to produce over 200 healthy soursop plants for sale.

There are many health benefits to be obtained from both the fruits and the leaves, as well as many home-made recipes and non-alcoholic cocktails beyond ice cream and soursop juice. The soursop is listed as an exotic fruit by the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries.

Other agri projects are in the making, but one step at a time. The list of vegetables being homegrown has increased to a wider variety for the fun and love of it and to save some money as well.