Assuming that if you are interested enough to read this blog you had a little look at our Plantation's History, and you know that once apon a time, not too long ago, Sion Hill was a working sugar plantation. I say 'not too long' ago so that you dont think I'm speaking about back in the golden days when everything was coming up roses economically and Sugar was this islands #1 booming industry. I am (*clears throat) in my 30's, and I grew up on this working plantation with tractors, ploughs and the occasional cow. I knew what time of year it was based on whether the fields were planted, harvested or ploughed (mostly because when the fields were ploughed I could see my cousins house across the fields and that meant it was nearly time to go back to school). My sister and I grew up 'in the country', we helped pick the string beans in the field and sometimes got to stay up very late at night when the wind swept cane fires across our land. We climbed tall trees, played pranks, and rode in the open tray of our dad's pick up truck... standing up. We had a real childhood, raised by the 'village' of sugarcane harvesters, tractor drivers and ladies we called 'auntie' who were definitely not our family. We were plantation kids.
Something happend though. The world changed and we lost all the freedoms kids had in the 80's, along with the ability to profitably tend to the fields. Our family 'figuratively' laid down the pitchfork* in search of other income. It was what all the plantation owners were doing. Selling all, or selling some... moving on to whatever paid better at the time. We leased our lands for a while, though, even the bigger company with mechanical harvesters couldn't make the plantation profitable and eventually gave up too. We chose to sell some, and let some rest in hopes of finding something profitable some day. It eats at you though, land that isnt being used I mean, it weighs on you like a sink of dirty dishes in the middle of the night. Just sitting there on the edge of a cliff, with a great view that no one gets to see, actually costing you money to own but bringing in zero income (kinda like a 100 acre teenager!). We were plantation kids, and this is the story of how our little family is picking back up that pitchfork** and slowly finding our way, over hurdles and back to our roots in a whole new way.
Agriculture, that was the plantation's business. Monoculutre for sure, with the occasional crop of string beans, hot peppers or sorrel where the sugar refused to grow and when the fields needed a rest. So what do you do when the crops dont pay the bills. Well, Step 1: Suck it up and hope for a better day. Step 2: Sell the land with the best view to help stay afloat (and thus Turtleback Ridge was born). Step 3: Change industries to tourism like the rest of the island has!
They were beautiful buildings, the ruins of what was once the plantation yard, but completely unpractical and a financial drain to upkeep. So the generation before me put their brains together and made a transformation; the shells of what used to house the plantation manager, the livestock and the tractors were reincarnated. Now they are architecturally historical, and alluring (If I do say so myself) apartments for discerning tourists who like a great view, a nice breeze, a bit of history and no hustle bustle! I'm sure you know that I'm talking about the 5 unique apartments we've created from the ruins of the plantation buildings. If Ruth (granny) would ever write her memoirs the stories that would pour about those old buildings would never end. In their new incarnation they are creating life long memories for their new inhabitants; short and long term guests whose own family stories at Sion Hill Plantation are just beginning.
So now that we've got some income what do we do about that sink full of dirty dishes? The areas around the main plantation houses that are still unused, under used or currently being used for the wrong thing? Well, it is a plantation, and we were plantation kids, so I was looking for something a little more permanent to pour my energy into. Something that wasnt a fad that would be an attraction for a while and then die off leaving us again with an unprofitable space. Something permanent on a previously agricultural spot that didn't ruin the quiet, the breeze and the awesome view of rolling fields and feeling of being in the country when your actually minutes from Holetown... who knew there was a word out there that combined the two 'Permaculture'... pay attention, theres more to come on this.
* Figurative because we definatelay didn't have any pitchforks on the plantation. We harvested sugarcane not hay!
** Figurative again. Definately not purchasing many actual pitchforks.