Elan Vanilla Farm
“Elan Vanilla Farm” at Hope Bay west of Port Antonio. Jamaica has the right climatic conditions to grow natural vanilla, an orchid (Vanilla planifolia). Vanilla is the second most expensive spice after saffron, and the Elan Vanilla Farm is the only known commercial producer of natural vanilla beans on the island.
From a production of 1 million beans in its heyday, to a present production of approx. 20,000 beans, this farm is still in operation. This farm used to produce one million pods at one time but Hurricane Ivan damaged 10 acres of the property and export has cut down drastically. They used to export to USA.
The vanilla flowers in Jamaica have to be hand pollinated, in the short time span between daybreak and noon. After reaping, the beans undergo a maturation process that takes nine months, of gentle care. After the maturation period the beans are stored for export. Two of our main global competitors are Madagascar and Mexico. At the end of the maturation process, the beans are extremely aromatic, and are used as a natural spice in higher priced ice cream, etc. A mature bean placed in one’s sugar jar will give a fragrant sugar for cakes, teas, etc.
The size of the original farm, before some erosion by the Swift River was 77 acres, of which 30 acres were earmarked for vanilla. There are other fruit trees on the property, and we have been advised that we will also be able to do a nature walk there. For information also, bulk commercial vanilla extract, which is much less expensive than natural vanilla, is produced synthetically by the chemical processing of wood products such as lignin.