As more people embrace a health conscious lifestyle, they are looking for ways to incorporate natural vegetable based diet.

One expression of organic dining is the Ital, or I-Tal, a Rastafarian-based belief that humans’ natural living food standard is vegetarian.

Rastafarian husband-and-wife team Damian and Ratoya Adjodha offer hands-on experience in BodyHoliday’s organic garden in Saint Lucia. Launched in 2018, the duo leads informative foraging tours through the garden. The tour concludes with a feast of the just-picked-fresh organic fare in an outdoor dining area with a panoramic view of the Cariblue bay.

At the start of the tour, the duo explains why I-Tal food is celebrated by those in the Rastafari movement.

“I-Tal is the Rastafari words for natural,” Organic Garden Supervisor, Ratoya Adjodha offers. “In front of most words, we tend to use the ‘I’ a lot, showing the connectedness of all things.”

Damian Adjodha, environment and ecosystems leader, added, “Rastafari is kind of our insurgent cultural legacy of the Caribbean that has evolved and adapted over the last half century, going on to 70 years now. It originally existed in Jamaica ... Some people say maybe 20,000 Rastas were murdered over a period of about 20 years just because they wore locs and wanted to proclaim a different faith. That amazing stimulus spread throughout the Caribbean, and created a lifestyle that we call ‘I-Tal Liberty,’ the right for a natural lifestyle. I-Tal being foundational, in that we obtain nutrients from the soil or the earth as direct as possible, bypassing all the middle things like animals. I-Tal eating is really about plant-based eating. In the last 20 years, it has became vegan eating, but the Rastafari were eating this way for 60 years, a long time before it was popular.”

The eco-leaders have created a model farm based on the intimate understanding that a living ecosystem can produce naturally good produce from their internationally recognized I-Tal Organic Garden and served at the Farm-to-Table Restaurant.

“When you think about tropical plants, most people think about bananas,” said Ratoya Adjodha, pausing to indicate the plant towering over her. Almost all of the banana trees farmed throughout Saint Lucia are accented with colored bags to deter pests and perfect the fruit.

“When you take a ride and you see fields of bananas, you normally only see them through the blue plastic bags to protect them from birds of a feather or other pests. If there’s a little scratch off on the banana, if it’s deformed in any way, the farmers’ product will be rejected. It has to be perfect before traveling and if it has a scar, ethylene gas begins to produce it will ripen all the other ones prematurely. We are growing it organically here for the purpose of the I-Tal experience, and we do not believe in the use of single plastics. We just leave it natural, so when the birds come to peck, they can peck a few as long as they leave enough for the guests. Bananas grow with the mother plant sending a nice bunch, about 10 to 12 hands. Once we harvest the bunch, we will then go and cut the mother off three-quarters of the way and allow for her second and third generation to then take over. So, a banana crop is a very sustainable crop: if you have one that you nurture and care for then you’re guaranteed a continuous harvest.”

Over the past two years, the couple has led a small team in transforming the resort’s unfarmable area into arable land.

“This is not agricultural land were people would farm, ever,” Damian Adjodha said. “It’s too steep; too stony; too hot; too dry; too close to sea level — so it’s a real challenge for us here. But as you can see, we’re starting to learn, adapt and win some of those challenges. One of the things we do is we allow native species to thrive, like this indigenous cowbean or cowpea ... Wherever it seeds, we let it go do its thing. And we live with it because it gives us this lentil which we use for one of our protein sources in the I-Tal restaurant.”

bbooker@phillytrib.com (215) 893-5749

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