Thanks to a generous grant by the Clif Bar Family Foundation, our team has started to build a small nursery for tree seedlings. The nursery will be used to practice grafting techniques and experiment with growing seedlings organically – free of fertilizers and growth hormones! An organic tree nursery will be important as more cocoa farmers are turning organic and looking to source organic plants.
The nursery is a small, natural building using bayleaf wood for the frame. Bayleaf trees smell wonderful, but more importantly they are hardy, fast-growing trees that are resistant to pests and make excellent pillars.
The nursery has two sections.
A semi-shaded area with tables for grafting. Vulnerable seedlings that are very young or recently grafted will stay here, protected from the sun and rain. This is where we will do the grafting as well.
The other side of the nursery has shade cloth and is exposed to rain and partial sun. Successfully grafted seedlings will go on this side to “harden.”
Under the direction of Organic Certification Manger, Kelwin Noel, we are producing our potting soil right here on the farm. Our soil includes a mix of nearby river sand, goat manure and topsoil collected from areas of the land that have been left untouched for many years. We may have to source our soil elsewhere when we get the nursery up and running, but for the first few hundred seedlings, this works great.
We collected young seedlings and cocoa seeds found underneath trees – most often from ripe pods that have fallen and cracked open. The seeds and seedlings are planted into bags with our soil and kept in the shaded portion until they are large enough for grafting.
CFFI has been interested in grafting for many years, starting with our grafting workshop with local farmers in 2014. Grafting shoots from older trees onto a young seedling allows the seedling to start producing cocoa earlier, which makes them much more useful for farmers.
The two young women working on our farm, Meryl and Sherol are very interested in vegetables, herbs and ornamental plants too. They have started growing these seedlings as well. We hope to have a plant sale in the future – stay tuned!