Meet the Farmers Making Local Food a Thing in The Bahamas

By Brooke Porter Katz  •  October 1, 2019


As the island nation recovers from Hurricane Dorian, a sustainably-minded push for locally-grown produce has gained traction.

Four weeks after Hurricane Dorian brought devastation to Grand Bahama and the Abacos Islands, the Bahamas remains united in its relief efforts, even as life has returned to normal throughout the undamaged areas of the country. Locals are encouraging visitors to return, hoping they continue to see the many sides of this beautiful nation. Here, we highlight one of the Bahamas’ multifaceted charms: a growing demand for local produce.

It’s 8:30am on a Saturday, and locals and visitors are already gathered at Nassau’s New Providence Community Center for its weekly farmer’s market, where stands are overflowing with just-picked peppers, tomatoes, kale, and other vegetables from Field to Fork Community Farm, as well as made-from-scratch goodies like jam, bread, and pastries. It’s a scene that didn’t exist a decade ago—and one that represents large strides for this island destination that currently imports about 90% of its food.

At the forefront of this locavore movement are Tim Hauber and Selima Campbell Hauber, the husband-and-wife team behind Field to Fork. The farm began as a small plot at Tim’s church, which he used to incorporate gardening into the Sunday school program. In 2005, he met Selima—who’d just received a PhD in horticulture—while giving her a tour of his workplace in a hydroponic greenhouse at Lucayan Tropical Produce, a major agricultural producer. Their connection was instant, and before she knew it, Tim asked her to take over the church garden. “We produced quite a bit, and began inviting people on Saturdays to come,” says Selima. “Eventually other vendors got interested in selling eggs, bread, cookies, and other things. It wasn’t massive, but it became a weekly event.”

“At the end of the day, buying local helps build community.”

 

In 2012, the now-married couple decided to expand the farm and make it a real business, renting more than an acre of land from Lucayan. Today, they grow 30 types of vegetables, including tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, carrots, beets, radishes, and lots of leafy greens like arugula, spinach, and kale. In addition to selling at the farmers market, Field to Fork supplies a growing number of restaurants on the island, including the new French- and Mediterranean-inspired Cocoplum Bistro & Bar and all three restaurants at Rosewood Baha Mar. (Last season alone, they sold more than 4,000 pounds of their baby leaf lettuce blend.) “Chefs are helping lead the way,” Selima says. “Part of the problem before was that local producers weren’t able to meet the quality and consistency standards that a restaurant or resort requires, but we’ve shown that we can.”

Support Hurricane Dorian Relief Efforts

The Baha Mar Foundation is spearheading hurricane relief efforts to assist those in Grand Bahama and The Abacos by providing food, shelter and medicine. We encourage all to join the recovery efforts by making a donation below.

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• • •

Siddharth Krishna, the chef at Rosewood Baha Mar’s restaurants, believes the importance of using local produce goes beyond the fact that it just tastes better. “At the end of the day, buying local helps build community,” says Krishna, who also sources from Nassau’s Green Leaf Farms. “Plus, we’re keeping income on the island, and reducing our carbon footprint.” Sustainable seafood is also a focus: Krishna receives just-caught grouper, red snapper, prawns, and lobster from a local supplier, and works with a scientist to ensure he’s not sourcing young conch, whose numbers are rapidly declining.

Elsewhere on the island, there are plenty of places for visitors to taste the local bounty firsthand—many of which you can experience with Tru Bahamian Food Tours. The tours give visitors a chance to spend time downtown Nassau and check out the restaurants and bars that locals frequent on a daily basis, says Anna Bancroft, the company’s general manager. Itineraries only feature businesses that use local produce—or in the case of Athena Café, grow it themselves on their own farms. (Its seafood—including conch used in a delicious chowder—also comes from the owner’s family’s operation.)

“We’re keeping income on the island, and reducing our carbon footprint.”

 

Bahamian Cookin’, which has been around for more than 30 years, is another tour highlight. “It’s really one of the only places where people who work downtown can find authentic Bahamian food,” Bancroft says. “We try the steamed chicken, their most popular menu item, along with pigeon peas and plantains—all of it locally sourced.” On the way out, you’ll get a cup of switcha, a traditional drink of hand-squeezed juice from sour oranges and key limes mixed with local cane sugar.

For something sweet, there’s Tortuga Rum Cake bakery. “Each Caribbean island that has a Tortuga Rum Cake location that makes its own unique flavor, and ours in pineapple,” Bancroft says. “The Bahamas was at one time the largest producer of pineapple before hurricanes ruined our crops, and people are trying to revive it.”

Field to Fork is also trying to make headway on doing what many may deem impossible in the Bahamas: grow produce year-round. “Excessive heat and frequent rain in the summer make growing nearly impossible, and it impedes our success,” Selima says. They have identified a technology that may allow them to produce in every season, and are working to raise money and buy more land. It will take countless farms like Field to Fork to substantially decrease how much food is imported to the island nation, but Selima believes every little bit helps. “Today’s consumer is so much more aware of what they’re putting into their bodies,” she says. “I think this will continue to gain momentum—there’s no going back.”

The Details

Field to Fork Community Farm: Rock Plant Road; +1 242-357-9669

Tru Bahamian Food Tours: +1 242-601-1725

Athena Café: Corner of Bay Street and Charlotte Street; +1 242-326-1296

Bahamian Cookin’: Trinity Place, across from Central Bank of The Bahamas; +1 242-328-0334

Tortuga Rum Cakes: 10 Frederick Street; +1 242-397-6008

Discover A Sense of The Bahamas

Explore more insider stories on Rosewood Conversations from The Bahamas, where Rosewood Baha Mar offers guests unparalleled access to swaying palms, powder-white beaches—as well as the islands’ rich cultural and culinary heritage.

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Written By: Brooke Porter Katz

10.1.19

Locations: The Bahamas

See more: Food & Drink

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