Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Pearnel Charles Jr has pledged to support the Mulberry Valley Estate in Friendship Gap, St Mary, to fully realise its vast agro-ecotourism potential.
The 20-acre property is owned by entrepreneurs, Jeffrey ‘Agent Sasco’ Campbell, and wife Nicole.
The minister joined the couple on a tour of the estate on Thursday (January 26) where he, and other ministry principals, as well as private-sector interests, viewed the diverse natural gems, exotic fruit trees, sustainable features, and opportunities for both agriculture and tourism contained on the property.
“I am more than convinced that Jamaica needs this magical Mulberry Valley Estate. Agriculture is a multidimensional, evolving, interconnected marketplace, and your vision is a reflection of our drive to really expose to the world all that Jamaica has to offer,” Charles said.
“I want to ensure you of our commitment to work with you [and] to work with the Ministry of Tourism to really make this a success and a reflection of sustainable agriculture and tourism. I want the world to know that here (at Mulberry) is where excellence lies,” he added.
Campbell explained that his vision for the estate is to create a space where “people come to experience nature and agriculture in a different way”.
“The Mulberry project is a pilot… to explore the growth of mulberries as a commercial crop in Jamaica as mulberry is a super food,” the popular recording artiste noted, adding that the fruit has the potential to create value-added products such as wines and preserves.
He explained that the property will not be open to the public until the first accommodation is built.
“We envision that to be about a year from now; it will be a three-bedroom unit on the hillside; everyone gets their own pool, and that sort of thing,” Campbell indicated.
In his remarks, Permanent Secretary in the Agriculture Ministry, Dermon Spence, highlighted the unique and tranquil ambience that the estate can potentially provide.
“The living and the peace of mind that you get from finding yourself in a space where you can watch birds [and] you can look at the water… gives you a different vibe, and you complement that with animals for petting and [many other] things. We are endorsing the project by being here. When there is partnership, there’s a greater chance for success,” Spence said.
Meanwhile, Charles announced plans to appoint the Campbells as ‘Grow Smart, Eat Smart’ ambassadors.
“You have been able to use your own network to bring stakeholders here. I am looking forward to youngsters seeing this as a place where they can come and learn. I am looking forward to the infusion of technology and innovation with the traditional and us learning more about the mulberry as a superfood. I am looking forward to all the future holds for us,” the minister said.
Thursday’s tour also included State Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Franklin Witter; Dr Norman Dunn, member of parliament for St Mary South Eastern and State Minister in the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce; Winston Simpson, acting chief executive officer, Rural Agricultural Development Authority, and CEO, National Irrigation Commission, Joseph Giles.
Joining them were representatives from the Agro-Investment Corporation (AIC) and private-sector entities Digicel Foundation, Jamaica National (JN) Group, and H&L Agro, among others.