Why mushrooms? – you might ask.
Doesn’t it seem a bit odd for a coffee company to start growing mushrooms? At first glance, yes, I guess it sounds like an odd move. However, if you look at how Sherwood has developed over the past 200 years mirroring the social and economic developments the country has gone through – then our new ‘Gourmet Selection’ concept fits like a glove.
After years in Europe, it would be a lie to say that we have not become used to certain conveniences that are not always available when you move to a tropical island that has a MASSIVE trade deficit. Jamaica largely relies on import of…pretty much everything except for music, coffee, and good times. Many of the products we import and consume in Jamaica should be grown locally, with local farmers benefitting to a much greater extent than they are today.
The most wildly obvious category of products that should NOT be imported is of course food!
Jamaica is a fertile and lush country, but the agricultural development which e.g. countries like Denmark (where I am from) have gone through, is nowhere in sight in Jamaica. Which is both good and bad. It means we’re terribly reliant on imported products – but it also means that we can skip some of the steps Denmark and other countries went through and apply best practice from today. That of course requires technology, resources, insight, and support. Although the Ministry of Agriculture and other entities do what they can, so much more must be done for Jamaica to significantly reduce the costly imports.
My encounter with the supermarket shelf
While we rely heavily on import, and we can acknowledge that it leaves us with options we wouldn’t otherwise have had, it also leaves much to be desired in terms of freshness of your regular supermarket mushrooms!
Mushrooms are one of the most incredible food items you can find. They, more or less, grow from nothing, are incredibly healthy and leaves the substrate they grew on perfectly conditioned to nurture other plants – such as coffee!
In our early days of exploring the vast mountain areas of Sherwood Forest Coffee Estate we often came across wild mushrooms and realised that the same microclimate that makes our coffee so great in the Jamaica Blue Mountains, also creates the perfect conditions for beautiful gourmet oyster mushrooms to grow. The temperature and the humidity is just exactly right. And just like that, we found the complementary product line we had been searching for. Gourmet mushrooms!
Building opportunities while giving our coffee a helping hand
Sherwood is a significant employer in our local coffee farming community. However, as coffee is a seasonal crop, there are months where we cannot employ all the people we would like to. Our seasonal workers are not ‘just’ workers though. They are mothers and fathers struggling to make ends meet, and the off season is rough for them.
Greatly supported by Development Bank of Jamaica we have therefore kickstarted a new Gourmet Selection range of Oyster mushrooms, with more value added products to come – all perfectly complement and even support our coffee farming activities. Here’s how:
- After our beautiful mushrooms have been picked, the substrate become part of the natural fertiliser we use at Sherwood Coffee Estate benefitting our coffee plants.
- It allows us to retain more of our skilled workers and gradually move them into year-round employment which is great! We support our community and retain the skills that we need for our coffee production by providing year-round employment.
- As a bonus, we contribute to the reduction of food import by supplying our local supermarkets, restaurants and hotels – and even look at regional export.
So why doesn’t all coffee estates grow mushrooms? Good question! Sherwood has a unique location for both activities, so this step is straight forward for us. It’s a win-win for all parts of our coffee estate activities. Our already excellent coffee will benefit from our mushroom production, as the waste from one activity becomes fertiliser for the other; our coffee staff will have even more opportunities to grow, learn and earn, our local customers will benefit from a new range of high, quality produce and our international coffee customers can appreciate knowing that their coffee is part of a circular set of activities in a small rural community that we’re transforming one job at a time.
December 6, 2021