The Melia Nassau Beach Resort’s decision to create links with local farmers is getting strong reviews.
Chiccharney Farms in North Andros began working with the hotel, which will be part of the Baha Mar devlopment, more than one year ago. They met with chefs, and went through product sampling and selection.
In September, Chiccharney began providing produce in bulk for Melia, the Spanish-based chain with 350 hotels in 30 countries, a network that now includes the former Sheraton resort on Cable Beach.
“We’re excited,” says Chavara Roker-Eneas, president of Chiccharney. “What Melia is doing empowers a whole lot of people.”
Chiccharney has already re-branded and expanded, thanks to an increasing commercial appetite for locally grown produce and its contract with Melia, providing sweet potatoes, onions, habaneros, limes, Haden mangoes, arugula, thyme, watermelon and avocados. More leafy vegetables are planned, and organic produce is also available.
“Melia orders in bulk,” says Roker-Eneas, a third generation farmer. “One order can consume what it would have taken 12 weeks to grow.” If Chiccharney runs out of sweet potatoes or onions, they partner with other farmers in Nassau, including Lucayan Farms, to provide produce so they do not disappoint.
For Melia, which is planning to open several new restaurants with different themes, doing business with local growers and suppliers is part of a corporate culture that not only benefits the economy but allows hotel guests to enjoy local fare.
“Melia Nassau Beach is committed to long-term economic and environmental growth. Efforts to empower local farmers, both from Nassau and the Family Islands, are a staple in Melia’s pledge to give its guests the highest quality goods while sustaining the environment,” said Andrew Tilley, general manager.
“The partnership is great for us,” said Roker-Eneas who is willing to work as hard as she has to in order to maintain the reputation of quality and consistency in the fresh produce market that’s known to be demanding and finicky.
“Nothing that is worth doing,” she says, “comes easy. We do almost everything ourselves. Throughout the entire process since we started working with Melia, I was pregnant. I was packing and lifting boxes, making deliveries, up to two weeks before delivery.”
Her son is now six weeks old, and the farming new mom is already looking to the future, planning to launch a storefront this fall.
As for Melia, identifying willing suppliers has been easier than expected in the Bahamas.
“We will soon reveal our sea to shore specialties that will do for the fishing industry what we hope our fresh produce purchasing commitment is doing for farming,” said Mr Tilley. “And the best thing – guests love it because they want to experience what the local country has to offer.”