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By Ariti Jankie

Nestled in the green hills above the city of Scarborough, Tobago, Orange Hill Nature Ranch offers a panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The ranch sits on a sugar plan­tation founded by Dutch settlers in 1647. Over a period of 300 years, the estate changed hands with invad­ing nations.Tobago never belonged to the Dutch but at various times belonged to France and Britain. During their occupation of the island, the French housed their governor at the plantation.The remains of the family still repose in tombs at Grave Hill. A wooden house was later built on the ruins of a Dutch fort.The plantation was converted into a family business 130 years ago. Sugarcane was produced up to1980.An old wind mill and the factory still stand.The estate later produced coconut and was converted into a cattle farm.

Josefa Pational of Germany, came to Tobago in 1999. She fell in love with the plantation.She found intrigue in the rich history and seized the opportunity to make the plantation her home.The land was partly owned by her husband's family. Determined to make it work, she never left the island. Since then, she has beer working to improve the place she has come to regard as home."The historical buildings were neglected. They fell into ruin and the land was overgrown with bushes," she tells the Business Express.

Patience began to dream of restoring the farm and converting it into an agro-tourism industry. "I spent all of my school vacations on farms in Germany and I love ani­mals," she said, adding that after she graduated with a degree in economics, she began working at one of Germany's leading food pro­cessing plants.She said from an early age, she wanted a profession that centred around animals. Goat farming was the answer. It was the only thing she could do without a huge capital investment."I purchased my first set of breeding stock and set­tled down to experiment on the manufacturing of goat cheese, quark (a type of low fat curd cheese) and yogurt", she said. Orange Hill Nature Ranch was established.Today the former sugar estate is home to a mixed breed goats with a part of the sugar factory converted into a small dairy.

A rustic wooden house has been erected on top of what remained of the old ruined walls. Over 60 goats roam freely in a vast yard with chickens, dogs and cats. Very often, visitors call on Patience and she has been opening up the available rooms for rent. "There is so much to be accomplished but without capital investment and a ready supply of labour, one has to be contented," she said. She mastered the basics of making cheese while visiting farms in Germany and through trial and error began to carve a profitable business supplying a niche market with feta cheese and yogurt. She said that the secret to getting rich milk from the animals was to love them. "My animals are happy. They are free and grow with love," she said. With a shortage of labour, she works around the clock caring for the expanding goat stocks, chicken, cats and dogs. She said that farmers had been rearing goats on bare nutrition and treated the animals badly. "Goats in particular have not been reared to realise the full potential of the industry," she said.

Cut off from the rest of the world, with little chance of securing reading material, Patience began a website http://goat-dairytobago.com on which she has posted a number of Orange Hill Ranch recipes using feta cheese. In the peak tourist season when she receives visitors and sells most of her products from the farm gate, she bakes a variety of cakes, bread and pies.She writes on the website to her European friends: "Everyone thinks the Caribbean vacation must be very expensive. It isn't." Patience wants to expand production of yogurt, a fast seller and was excited by news that the industry had improved with the supply of goat milk increasing by 400 per cent in Trinidad over the past year. "If I can lay my hand on more milk, I would produce flavoured yogurt. There is a large market for it," she said. She is also committed to preserving the old ruins that are over 300 years old. "There are too many demolition-happy investors intent on destroying an interesting part of Tobago's history", she said.
She can be contacted at 660-7761 or by e-mail at patience@tstt.net.tt

 

 

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