Meeting the healthy eating demand
JaVaughn Dill shakes his head when people complain about the high price of fresh vegetables.
“I see it on Facebook,” the 40-year-old said. “The average person doesn't understand the logistics and the background of farming.”
Since starting his own fresh fruit and vegetable business, Dill Pickle Farming, four years ago, he knows all too well.
During peak season he works eight to ten hours a day not just weeding and digging, but also delivering his goods.
He provides bananas for several local grocery stores and restaurants including The Marketplace, Lindos, Anchor Restaurant, Bar and Lounge and Marcus', among other places.
Like other business owners, he has rising fuel prices, equipment breakdowns, payroll tax and insurance increases to deal with, but unlike people in other fields, he also has mother nature to contend with.
When he's not dealing with storms, drought and insects, he's fighting off feral chickens.
“They can easily clean out a field,” he said. “I am fighting chickens in one of my gardens and might end up losing 90 per cent of what's in there. I think the Government could control the chicken population. That would help.
“That is such a rapid increase with the chickens. You have people out there who are feeding the wild chickens. If they only knew what local farmers go through with these chickens.”
Sometimes the hardships of farming make him want to give up, but just for a moment. “It's my passion,” he said. “It's in my blood.”
He grew up helping his father, Wesley Dill, tend a small home plot.
“I enjoyed helping him,” Mr Dill said.
Today his own sons JaVaughn Jr, 11, and Azariah, 18 months, help him in the garden.
“It started out as a hobby,” he said. “Then I saw a need for local vegetables and organic farming.”
He asked some friends with land if they wouldn't mind him using it to farm.
“It just moved from there,” he said. “It grew from one garden to two to three. I am up to ten-plus at the moment.”
He has found that a lot of people are interested in eating more fruits and vegetables. His own interest in healthy eating stems from involvement in body building.
“I was always on a good eating regime,” he said.
One of his challenges is storage and refrigeration.
“You need a lot of storage for when you harvest,” he said.
He is now looking to partner with another larger business to help him with that.
Mr Dill sells his produce at The Rubber Tree in Warwick on the weekends. His greens such as kale, callilou and collard greens are popular. In addition, he also imports exotic fruits such as teardrop grapes, lychee, mangosteen and salak.
“To make a profit can be hard sometimes, especially with import items,” he said. “A lot have to be flown in, so the mark-up on that can be quite hard at times. But people are still willing to pay that price to taste something different.”
With the long, hot summer only just drawing to a close, he only has low-maintenance pumpkin vines and watermelon growing currently. He is looking to reopen his farmer's market at the end of October or early November.
“I am also trying to set one up in St George's, if possible,” he said. “I open every Saturday and every other Sunday, Saturdays from 9am to 6pm in the summer, and 9am to 5pm during the winter months. Sundays it is 1pm to 5pm.”
He is also a certified electrician with a business called Let There Be Light Electrical. “I wear many hats,” he said.
• For more information see Mr Dill's Facebook page, Dill Pickle Farming, or call 536-6161