One way to find cool things to do in the country you’re visiting is to read previous visitors’ travel blogs and basically follow their instructions of where to go. I’d read on one travel blog about a place called Life Yard which was described as a farm in the middle of a Kingston ghetto.
The blogger mentioned that they like to show visitors around, and they also prepare vegan meals to sell, using the food grown on the farm. Yesterday was my birthday and seeing as I basically have no friends here, I decided to go on a solo adventure to find this farm.
I found the address by searching for ‘Life Yard’ on Facebook. Thankfully they had a page, so I knew that the address was 44 Fleet Street in downtown Kingston. This meant that I could use my good friend, Mr. Google Maps, to plan my journey from the hostel. So, this is how you get there from Half Way Tree, the main transport hub in the centre of Kingston:
Take any bus that goes to Saint William Grant Park in downtown. This is the main bus stop in downtown and it’s next to the big Coronation Market. You can take the 32, 42, 44, 46, 47 or 49. Don’t do what I did and hop on the first one of those numbers that you see, because (stupidly I didn’t consider this) there are 46s and 47s etc. that go towards downtown, but there are also 46s and 47s etc. that go in the opposite direction, coming from downtown.
To make sure you get on the right one, use the board that tells you the destination of each bus and which stand to take it from. If you’re taking it from the stand that’s going towards downtown then it’ll definitely be the right one.
The bust costs 100jmd and you pay the driver when you get on. This is the equivalent of 1 US dollar. The bus takes about 20 minutes to reach Saint William Grant Park, and it will stop on the South side of the park which is called South Parade.
From South Parade, it’s a 15 minute walk to Life Yard and there are various routes you can take. I decided on one that seemed to involve bigger streets rather than smaller streets, and I wrote instructions to myself on a piece of paper about which streets to take etc. so that I wouldn’t have to take out my phone to use Google Maps.
My route was really easy so I guess I would recommend it. From South Parade, walk down King Street. After a few minutes there’ll be a junction with Barry Street. Don’t turn onto Barry Street – just keep walking. A few minutes later you’ll reach a junction with Tower Street. This is where you need to turn left and then continue walking straight for about 10 minutes.
There will be loads of small streets coming off each side and some aren’t labelled. Fleet Street is around the 15th or 16th one you’ll come to, so after you’ve passed about 10 streets, just start asking people “excuse me, is Fleet Street coming up soon?” and they’ll tell you how many more streets you have to pass.
When you’re walking down Tower Street, you’ll stand out A LOT. Most people would advise you not to go to that part of Kingston because it’s the “ghetto”, and people there looked very confused when they saw me casually strolling by. A couple of people even asked me if I was lost! However, no one bothered me and no one made me feel uncomfortable, and people were very friendly when I asked for directions.
I did witness a fight on the street and all the residents were coming out of their houses to see what was going on, but I just kept walking. I think you’d have to be quite unlucky or silly for something bad to happen to you if you just walk there in the day time and have a good idea of where you’re going. It does look very different from the ‘normal’ parts of Jamaica, and you can tell that its economic situation isn’t exactly fantastic, but that doesn’t mean you should be suspicious of all its people. They’re still humans, just like you.
Anyway, once you reach Fleet Street, turn left and walk almost to the top until you reach this door on your right:
The rasta man in the photo was standing outside so he showed me in, but if no one is outside, just go in. It’s run by a group of about 15 rastas, and one of them will show you around and give you some information about what they grow etc. It includes bananas, spinach, peppers, Jamaican apples (different from what we know as apples in Europe), breadfruit, cherries and more:
As you can see, there’s a colourfully painted seating area, so you can chill out there and eat some of the food they cook on site, or they also make fresh juices. I had a decent plate of food for 300jmd, and the juices are 120. They told me that on Saturdays they make a fire and do drumming (Saturday is the Sabbath day for rastas), so they recommend that people come on that day if they have the choice, although on Saturdays they don’t sell food.
Life Yard is a positive, safe place for local children to come to, and apparently they help kids with their homework after school sometimes, and teach some young people about farming. One little local boy who I hung out with there for a while told me that the rastas at Life Yard had taught him how to drum and now he’s really good at it.
One of the rastas actually lives on site, while the others live in the neighbourhood. There are a few rooms there, and they told me they want to start making it into a hostel kind of thing. Right now it’s not official, but they let people stay there for 10 US dollars a night. I’m pretty sure that’s the cheapest available accommodation in the whole of Jamaica! If you go and stay there, tell them you heard about it through Zoe from England. I told them I’d try and help them get people to stay there through my blog.
I stayed there for two or three hours, and it was really nice and relaxing to escape from the city life for a bit. I plan to go back soon and bring a good book with me. Whoever you are, I would recommend visiting Life Yard. If you don’t feel comfortable walking there from the bus stop, you could always take a taxi from wherever you’re staying. I’m not sure what time they open in the morning, but they said they stop serving food at 5pm so try and go before then.