In 2021, an article was published on Groentennieuws about Aruban vertical farmer 297 Farm taking their first steps toward food self-sufficiency. Back then, they only had a vertical farm and were in the process of building a greenhouse. Now, the farm has made great strides in expanding and has a new 500m2 tropical greenhouse and are working on one more greenhouse to be set up and running in the 4th quarter this year.
"We have always wanted to make an impact on the amount of fresh produce available to the local market here on Aruba, and with the new greenhouse growing many lettuce varieties, we have achieved that and more," says Patricia Mitton, Managing director of 297 Farm.
297 Farm has also added new varieties like romaine, batavia, arugula, basil, and bok choy to their product range and are currently experimenting with herbs, cucumbers, bell peppers, and local cucumber and melons.
However, the farm's speedy growth comes with its own set of obstacles, and the farm has already outgrown the current greenhouse mentioned at the beginning of this article. "We are planning on adding one more greenhouse this year and two more in 2024. This will include more space for lettuce but will include space to diversify as well," says Patricia.
United Farmers Aruba
In their efforts to make the island less dependent on imported produce, 297 Farm is also part of the United Farmers Aruba, a foundation whose goal is to bring local farmers together and share experiences and knowledge.
"Together with other local farmers, we've been able to reduce the amount of food waste, as well as the amount of imported produce. However, our impact is still only about 3%. Collectively, we hope to increase this percentage to 5% by year's end," says Patricia.
United Farmers sharing information to Aruba Parliament March 2023.
For some time now, 297 Farm has been holding a weekly farmer's market at their farm every Saturday from 9 to 11 AM. An initiative that has since been copied by two other farms as well, which each hold their markets at a different part of the island.
297 Farm also invited local food producers to join their weekly market, which they say increased the market's foot traffic dramatically. "This was the best thing we could have done, especially given the high cost of food right now."
"Our local farmers market has been a huge success! The community continues to come each and every week for fresh produce. It is even more economical for them. And best of all, they can see exactly what can be done even on a small island like Aruba," Patricia concludes.