While Antigua and Barbuda is primarily known as a tourist destination, there are several other industries which help to support the financial backbone of the twin-island nation. One of these supplementary industries is agriculture and there are several rural villages in the country where farming has a crucial impact on the daily lives of the locals. Aside from large-scale ventures, many families cultivate backyard gardens where the crops grown are transferred directly from the earth into their boiling pots.
A drive through villages such as Freetown and Bethesda proved to be an interesting tour, as I gained knowledge about the agricultural background and lifestyle of Antigua. So far, I'd been strictly focused on the tourism sector by eating, drinking and beaching my way to relaxation. It was fascinating to see where the raw materials which were used in my daily meals were grown, as well as the trees which bore the fruits which I enjoyed in the local lemonade, sour sop and tamarind iced drinks.
The village of Bethesda appeared to have much more cultivated land as opposed to residential areas. Some farms were located mere inches away from the roadside with only a flimsy wire fence as a barrier. I saw row upon row of raised soil banks, from which grew crops of potatoes, carrots, thyme, eggplant, yam and pumpkin. Regardless of the ongoing drought, the plants were vibrant shades of green and the fruits and vegetables were full and heavy to the extent that the plants were struggling to bear the weight.
In the Southern village of Old Road during the Summer, large plantations of fruit trees become alive with colour as the trees bear large bounties of mangoes and bananas. However the Summer months are potentially bitter-sweet as they coincide with the Caribbean's hurricane season. After a storm, thousands of dollars are lost when many of the banana crops are destroyed and fruits are blown from their branches.
Also located along the Southern coastline towns of Old Road and Urlings are several large pineapple farms which cultivate thousands of the Antigua Black Pineapple which is the national fruit of the island.
For persons who prefer animal farms, the village of Bethesda has quite a few pastures where different types of goat, sheep and cattle are raised. Some fields also hold beautiful horses which the owners sell to interested buyers both locally and abroad.
While Antigua may be recognized worldwide as a place to visit for sun, sea and sand by others, I felt lucky to have had a glimpse beneath the surface of this tiny yet multifaceted island nation. Some of these villages may be visited during an island tour, but I recommend interested persons to rent a car or a scooter for the day. Any difference in cost would be minor, and the freedom of the open road is always hard to resist!