Last week, thanks to my mother- and father-in-law, our family left behind the sub-zero wind chills, the frozen water in the dog bowl and the frost that crunches on the grass and exchanged it for Jamaican sunshine, clear water and Blue Mountain coffee.
And because we're farmers, and because farmers don't stop being farmers on vacation, we all voted to visit the Croydon Plantation, where coffee and pineapple grow with wild abandon.
Our tour guide was Alecia, who's a farm girl herself. Her grandfather knew a lot about herbs and plants, and her parents are farmers, so she knows soil types, plant names and terracing like I know how to eat pineapple.
(Translation: Really, really well.)
On her way to school and forgot her lunch? No problem. She'd just climb a tree, shake the branches and eat the fruit that fell from it.
Thirsty without any water? No problem. She'd just scoot up a trunk, grab a coconut and drink from it.
Heck, she even told us that when her son was little, she'd strap him to her back, climb a tree and sit on the branches, eating bananas while her son snored behind her.
She pointed out all sorts of beautiful flowers, like the bird of paradise (which definitely aren't growing in my garden), making it an extra treat to see them in real life!
And while I remind my husband quite routinely that THERE'S SO MUCH MORE VEGETATION IN MISSOURI THAN IN IOWA (seriously! It's like the plant life is taking over the ditches and the roads and everything ever!), he pointed out that there's way more vegetation in Jamaica than in Missouri.
I stand definitelydefinitely corrected.
Random aside: This plant was called the sexy pig.
Hey, when you're a pig farmer's daughter, you listen for words like "pig" and "pork."
Did someone say bacon?
We also got to see and sample several varieties of pineapple. My people, did you know that pineapple doesn't grow on trees?
True confessions: I didn't. I was pretty sure they grew high in the sky, just like bananas.
See? This is why I need to get out more often.
Along the way, we got to taste some of what's grown on the plantation: everything from freshly ground ginger to coffee.
Pretty sure someone could have just given me a whole sugar loaf pineapple and propped me up under a tree for the rest of the day and I'd have been the happiest girl alive.
Fun fact: Alecia was adamant that you don't cut pineapple in rings, since the core is always hard. You cut it in slices so that, from top to bottom, the fruit is tender and sweet.
You heard it here first: No more pineapple rings!
I'm thinking it's a platform I could build my run for president around: lower taxes, improved infrastructure, more money for the military and a sharp decline in pineapple rings.
Don't tell me I'm not on to something here.
We also learned about how sniffing bay leaves can calm your stomach (which is in knots after dodging potholes and random cows, both of which are centrally located on Jamaican roads), how cashews grow (she informed us that if you eat them still in the shell, you can die . . . so that escalated quickly) and that lemons in Jamaica are GIGANTICAL.
And then, as if we weren't high off of delicious pineapple, we got to nibble on coconut, star fruit and clementines.
You could have stuck a fork in us because we were DONE.
We loved our visit to the plantation, even though farming in Jamaica looks a little different than it does in Iowa and Missouri. We don't have coffee berries coming out of our ears and there aren't any bananas growing on our farm. Sadness.
But there are some things that stay the same: Farmers take care of their land, their animals and their plants, because when they do, their land and animals and plants take care of them.
And that spells success in any culture: Jamaican or American!