Gillard gets land to expand his vineyard
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Devin Gillard posing with bunches of Jupiter grapes in his backyard
Devin Gillard posing with bunches of Jupiter grapes in his backyard

–hails Vice-President Jagdeo as ‘a man of his word’

By Jeune Vankeric
DEVIN Gillard, a resident of Glasgow New Housing Scheme, East Bank Berbice, who cultivates grapes and other crops for a living, is a very happy man.

After many months of running around, some seven-and-a-half acres of land he had applied for to cultivate grapes was approved almost immediately when he raised the matter with Vice-President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo, who was part of a Cabinet outreach to Region Six just over a week ago.

“As a true leader, he is a man to his word; I have great respect for him,” Gillard said while seated in his vineyard on Monday. He was also in high praise for Agriculture Minister Zulfikar Mustapha, who helped to fast-track the process for him to acquire the land he’d applied for.

He recounted that following an earlier story carried by the Guyana Chronicle about his grape farm, he received a telephone call from Vice-President Jagdeo, who complimented him for cultivating grapes in Guyana, and enquired from him if he needed land for expansion.

“I identified an area which was previously under cane cultivation not far from my home, as I have to be nearby to care for the plants. In the meanwhile, I borrowed $4.5M and invested into the Jupiter, Viking and Fox grape cuttings from the United States of America. I also have Gala apple plants and Kiwis, which will be planted along the border of the vineyard. In addition, I have bought the galvanised wire for fencing and a solar electric fence to keep out animals. I was all set, just waiting for the land,” he told the Guyana Chronicle.

Gillard recalled that many tried to discourage him; persons who were initially tasked with assisting him with his proposal, and so the process for the acquisition of the land was stymied.

“But I had the vision, and I was willing to run with it. I heard of the Cabinet outreach; I left my home on the East Bank of Berbice and travelled all the way to Corentyne to have an audience with Vice-President Jagdeo. I reminded him of his promise, and the next day, I got the word that I was waiting for.

“I am preparing for my third and fourth generation, also employment for the many single-parents around the community; they will be involved in the pruning and harvesting. Within three to five years, I will be producing enough to meet a national demand,” Gillard said.

Currently, he has Jupiter grapes, which will be fully ripe in a month, while the Moon Drop grapes, called “Lady Finger” are in the earlier stages of growth.

Also known as the “Bee Man”, Gillard, who has no formal training in agriculture, two years ago singlehandedly started his cultivation with a few grape cuttings, brought by a friend from overseas.

A plot of land at his Lot 649 Glasgow New Housing Scheme, East Bank Berbice home was prepared, and from then, there was no looking back. He successfully planted and reaped grapes in his backyard.

As a boy, Gillard fondly remembers a neighbour who would travel overseas and return with apples and grapes. His family would be given an apple and four grapes, which had to be shared amongst his siblings.

Dissatisfied with having just one grape, he endeavoured to one day own a vineyard where he could have as many grapes as possible.

Many years later, Gillard would have sought the advice of many agriculturalists, but was told that the fruit could not be grown in the tropics, but rather in cool, temperate climes.

He was determined to prove them wrong, and after conducting extensive research, he discovered that the contributing factor for a successful grape harvest was the pH of the soil, which, in layman’s terms, is the alkalinity or acidity of the soil. In the case of grapes, a pH of 5.5 to 7.0 is generally recommended.

Devin had expected the flowering of the vines after 24 months, but was pleasantly surprised that the vine flowered at just eight months, followed by bunches of red Globes, a succulent, seeded variety of grape. The largest round berries of them all, Globes have a dark, ruby red colour, and are mildly sweet and flavourful when ripened.

Grapes have been known to prevent the hardening of the arteries, reduce blood pressure, improve circulation, curb blood clotting and lower inflammation. Research has also indicated that grapes help reduce cholesterol by decreasing the absorption of the compound into the blood.

Among the many by-products of grapes are raisins, wine, juice, vinegar, oils, and sweet spreads such as jams, jellies and marmalade.

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