Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
The author, Bo Bennett once said that those who improve with age embrace the power of personal growth and personal achievement and…self-actualization. As Barbados’ and indeed the world’s oldest rum, dating back to the early eighteenth century, Mount Gay has mindfully blazed the trail for younger brands within the local agricultural sector, cementing its place as the regional standard for conscious and conscientious social and environmental practices.
Several years ago, Mount Gay’s owner, Rémy Cointreau purchased Oxford Plantation, the original supplier of the distillery during the early 1700’s when Mount Gay’s rum production was being refined by Sir John Gay Alleyne.
With the purchase of the 134-hectares of land in St. Lucy and as plantation owners, growing canes, cotton and other food crops, the world’s oldest active rum distiller solidified its position as a leader in the local agricultural sector, and with it came a renewed commitment to embrace best practices for quality, sustainability and community philanthropy.
“The ultimate goal is to abide by the principles of social and environmental sustainability where ever we can,” shares Raphael Grisoni, Managing Director of Mount Gay.
Dr. Emmanuel L.T. Bourguignon, Doctor of Soil Microbiology and Ecology and Director of Development at the Laboratoire d’Analyses Microbiologiques des Sols in France was recently contracted to assist the brand in achieving its objectives around sustainability and reducing the environmental impact of the plantation.
“The team at Mount Gay is having so much fun with this project,” smiles Jacklyn Broomes, Agricultural Manager. “It is extremely gratifying to be immersed in nature and to give back to the community at the same time.”
The factory is making great headway in the road to sustainability and has introduced methods for enhanced water management through the use of rainwater for irrigation. Planting and rotation of mangos, breadfruit, sweet potatoes, Jamaican plums, dunks, pomegranates, sugar apples, ackees, coconuts and other crops is reducing soil erosion and has made for healthier and better quality yields. The plantation has also introduced apiculture (bee farming) to enhance the growth of fruit through crop pollination in the direct area. The agricultural team intends to grow approximately 100 trees per year on the property, which will have positive spill over for the entire island.
“Mount Gay is doing something special for Barbados,” explains Bourguignon. “By foresting the area and enhancing the biodiversity of the land around the plantation, we are no longer losing land to nature, but rather giving land back to nature. If the whole island and indeed the whole Caribbean did this, the positive impact would be huge.”
Mount Gay has also recognized the value of young people in its efforts to promote a culture of sustainable agriculture and has granted partial use of its plantation lands to the Barbados Community College for agricultural use.
The company has been involved in a number of initiatives on its site and within the community that help to promote a sustainable culture. These have included the complete ban of the use of Styrofoam containers for food and beverages on its premises, trash disposal projects, the construction of a greenhouse, orchard restoration and the implementation of a “Giving Forward project” that recently distributed seeds to residents of the neighbouring area to allow them to grow their own gardens.
“As we integrate our objectives for a healthy environment and social equity we continue to focus our efforts on producing the best rum in the world,” says Grisoni. “Our flavour is enhanced by the unique atmosphere of our country— the air that we breathe and the soil beneath our feet. Our product would taste completely different if it was produced somewhere else and for this reason it is to our best advantage to safeguard our environment and take care of our people. It is simply common sense.”