Department of Agriculture officials met with Love City residents at the Coral Bay Agriculture Station on Monday afternoon, November 26, as the push for a community farming project continued.
Ten residents attended the gathering to learn more about the department’s plan to lease about three acres of land on the bay side of the agriculture station on King’s Hill Road.
The plan, first announced by Department of Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Louis Peterson in June, calls for leasing plots of about 10,000 square feet each to residents for around $25 a year to promote for-profit farming in the area.
Although the land is situated across the street from the harbor, the soil might still be conducive for cultivation, according to Rudy O’Reilly, a scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Services.
Salinity Is Concern
“We are definitely looking at certain limitations here in terms of soil quality,” said O’Reilly. “This close to the sea, salinity of the soil is going to be a major concern for planting. You don’t know how far down you are going to get before you hit salt water.”
Existing coconut and guava trees on the property, however, are a good sign, explained O’Reilly.
“There are no salt-tolerant plants on the site which is good news,” he said. “Instead of making boxes and using imported soil, you might get away with planting straight into the ground.”
“These trees here normally grow in guts which means there is water here,” O’Reilly continued. “Most trees are deep-rooted too which is another good sign.”
Flooding will also be a major concern regarding the location, O’Reilly added.
“Crops that can take a lot of water and won’t wilt in dry conditions are going to be best,” he said. “You won’t have to deal with flooding on a yearly basis, but it is going to be a factor at times.”
An existing well at the agriculture station will help farmers get started, but O’Reilly estimated that crops will need much more than what can be provided.
“You might be looking at 2,000 gallons a day,” said the USDA NRCS scientist. “With the plot sizes and the location those are the numbers that we are coming up with. The water irrigation systems take lots of water.”
“Don’t let that scare you, but keep it in the back of your minds,” O’Reilly added.
Soil on the land closest to the Coral Bay harbor is comprised almost entirely of sand and gravel and might be set aside for a park area as it will be the most difficult to farm, the scientist explained.
More Testing Needed
Additional soil testing is necessary and more meetings will be conducted in the future, O’Reilly added.
In order to be eligible to lease a plot from the Department of Agriculture, residents must have a current farmer’s license, which entails completing a notarized application from the department. The application, which is available at the Coral Bay agriculture station, must be signed by the commissioner and then processed through the Department of Licensing and Consumer Affairs office at the Battery.
The transfer of land can only be granted by the Department of Agriculture and the annual fee is nonrefundable. While one tool shed is permitted, no masonry structures are allowed on the land. Additional rules and regulations also apply.
For more information, contact Raymond Thomas, the Department of Agriculture’s supervisor of agricultural development, at the Coral Bay station at 776-6274.