NASSAU, Bahamas – Something just wasn’t right. Julia Munroe-Neilly’s food bill kept going up but the amount of grocery she was bringing home kept going down.
She decided to do something about it. She enrolled in the Ministry of Agriculture and Marine Resources’ backyard gardening project.
That was eight months ago. Her yard in Monastery Park today is a veritable cornucopia of vegetables and fruit trees. “The economy,” she said showing off her huge heads of cabbages. “The economy was my big motivator. The price of sweet peppers and tomatoes in the food stores was too high.”
One of the first things she did was to uproot the beautiful, well-manicured lawn in her front yard. “People have all this grass in their yard, and you know what, you can’t eat that,” she said. “I took up every scrap of grass and put down broccoli, cabbages and tomatoes instead.”
In the back of her yard and wherever she finds space she has sweet potatoes, cassavas, beans, onions, bananas, carrots, beats, spices, fruit trees and more. A descendent from New Bight, Cat Island, Mrs Munroe-Neilly spent some 40 years as an educator in the Catholic system and as head of Sesame Academy.
“My food is like island food now,” she beamed. “Fresh. Moreover, I know what I am eating because I grew it. I have everything I need to cook with now.”
Mrs Munroe-Neilly finds backyard gardening to be quite therapeutic.
“It’s something I felt I needed to do and I am enjoying it,” she said. “I never thought I would be out here weeding, but I tell you every scrap of weed in this yard I pulled up myself.
“Not only is it good exercise but it is also good for meditating. It’s good thinking time. You can get away from people because no one is going to come into your garden to help you to weed.”
Leave it up to her and all householders would have their home garden. She distributes seeds and seedlings to her neighbors.
“When (Agriculture Minister) Mr Larry Cartwright said we should eat what we grow and grow what we eat, I took him seriously.”
A basket of delight from Julia Munroe-Neilly’s home garden in Monastery Park for Agriculture and Marine Resources Lawrence S ‘Larry’ Cartwright. Pictured from left are Permanent Secretary Cresswell Sturrup, Mrs Munroe-Neilly, fellow home gardener Oraliene Maycock, and Mr Cartwright. (BIS photo/Raymond Bethel)
Cabbages stand out in Julia Munroe-Neilly’s home garden in Monastery Park. (BIS photo/Raymond Bethel) Julia
Agriculture and Marine Resources Minister Lawrence S ‘Larry’ Cartwright (right) and Permanent Secretary Cresswell Sturrup are treated to home gardener Julia Munroe-Nelly’s newest treat – sweet potato surprise. BIS photo/Raymond Bethel)