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Friday, May 13, 2016

The "Hamlet of Colombier, French St. Martin" Story

Two young equestrians in Colombier.
It was an ordinary day.  Just snapped a photo of two young girls who were dressed in riding gear at a small stable in the hamlet of Colombier in French St. Martin.  The two young girls were preparing to ride at the Colombier Centre Equestre where Carol and I had stopped to look at the horses.  For years Carol and I have made yearly visits to St. Martin to swim in the crystal blue water, bask in the Caribbean sun and tour the island known as "The Friendly Island."  And, for years we have passed the sign that declares "BIENVENUE A COLOMBIER" along the main road from the capital of the French side of the multi-national island, Marigot, to Orient Beach area where we rent a villa.  
Sign at the entrance to Colombier, St. Martin.
Well, today we decided to venture back the narrow road that leads to a verdant valley lush with tropical vegetation that sinks gently between rolling green hills.  We were no more than 20 yards past the stone sign when we saw the children riding the horses.  Since Carol had a horse while growing up in southern Lancaster County, PA, we stopped to watch the riders.  There we met the two young girls waiting their turn to ride.  
Riders at the riding club.
The two girls were picking through tree pods, extracting the seeds and piling them between themelves.  After watching for a short time we headed down the narrow road toward the sign that read Soualiga Farms.  I had recently read about the farm run by Daniel and Dwayne and their efforts to initiate hydroponic farming.  
Entrance to Soualiga Farms.
We drove back their lane and visited their farm stand which featured both hydroponic vegetables as well as dirt grown vegetables.  They offered tropical treats such as mangoes, Spanish limes, star fruit, soursop, lemons, tamarind, avocado, and guavaberry to go along with carrots, lettuce and eggplants.  Driving deeper into the valley we saw grazing animals in fields separated with stone walls rather than traditional wooden or metal fences.  We stopped at a monument that was erected on May 27th, 2005 in memory of all Arrowroot cultivators in the village of Colombier.  The arrowroot is a starch which can be made into a flour and is very nutritional.  
Monument erected in honor of Arrowroot Cultivators.
Colombier is the only place on the island where it is grown.  Living in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, known as the Garden Spot of America, I am used to farm fields and fields of grazing animals.  And, after traveling to many Caribbean islands in the past and seeing mostly barren and sandy land, it was refreshing to see the beautiful farm fields and grazing fields in Colombier.  It was an interesting trip into the center of the hills which gave me a different perspective into farming than I have experienced in my hometown of Lancaster.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.

Cattle grazing in open fields.
Entrance to one of the farms in Colombier.  Notice the beautiful Olenader bushes on either side of the lane.
Fences are made from rock instead of wood or metal.
Farm raising bananas.

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