17 Mile Post: The Most Charming Cafe, Organic Farm and Guest House in Blue Mountain
By Tamu McPherson and Kristi Veliaj
Hey There Pretty Birds,
This past April when my family and I visted Jamaica for Easter, we discovered the extremely charming Blue Mountain Property 17 Mile Post which is home to EITS Cafe, Food Basket Farm and Mount Edge Guest House. We learned about the must-see-and-indulge-in gem through my friends
Novia Macdonald Whyte of the Jamaica Observer and Odette Dixon-Neath, Editor and Communications Director, who organized a walk through for me with co-owner Robyn Fox. Here are some pics that I snapped during my lovely tour and an interview with Robyn about the wonderful journey that has allowed she and her father Michael to cultivate their magical world atop the blue mountains. Please enjoy and definitely stop by next time your are in Jamaica.
-How did 17 Mile Post and EITS Cafe come about? Tell us about the wonderful journey.
17MilePost was really my father’s home and farm where I watched seedlings turn into plants and flowers. He would occasionally accept houseguests for different lengths of stay either in return for a modest payment or exchange for work in the house or on the farm.
I inherited some of my father’s hospitable and fun loving nature of sharing his home and our island with others. When I finished high school, I knew I wanted a career in Hospitality and Tourism. After studying abroad, I returned to Jamaica to work in the industry. In 2011, I joined my father in the Blue Mountains to a view to help him expand the business.
With Mount Edge Guest House, at 17MilePost, already established, we had a good start. My father has always had a love of agriculture and after a break from the flower farming, we sensed an opportunity for Salads, Herbs and Produce not easily available in Jamaica. The cool weather and favorable soil condition at 17MilePost was a great help in getting the new farming venture up and running. We started doorstep delivery in Kingston that was warmly received by both businesses and the public.
‘Farm to Table’, was a healthy trend some years ago that was popular and gave us the idea for an onsite restaurant that made use of many of the foods grown on the farm. My father had lived for a few years in France where he was inspired to incorporate European cooking with Jamaican ingredients, our own food fusion trend, Europe In The Summer Café, EITS Cafe.
-Give us a little breakdown of your business. How is it structured? Tell us about being the first farm to provide organic salads in super markets in the Kingston area. How did the idea come about?
17MilePost offers a Real Jamaican Experience offering accommodation, healthy farm food delivery and a mountain café offering many of the foods grown at the farm.
3-in-1 @ 1 location!
Located 3500 ft above sea level with the cool climate we are able to grow a range of Salads, Herbs and Produce not readily available in Jamaica, all pesticide free. The produce was well received at farmers’ markets and has since expanded to weekly delivery service to businesses and private homes. Some of the larger businesses including restaurants and supermarkets receive deliveries three times per week.
The Café was a natural extension of the farm and a perfect outlet for much of the produce from the farm. It is a great way to introduce many of the guests to local cuisine.
The guesthouse expanded from a few rooms, with occasional friends and overseas visitors stopping by, to many furnished cottages and shared accommodation options with breathtaking mountain and city views. As part of a Real Jamaican experience, we offer many excursions in the mountains that have proven popular with the guests. The three businesses have grown hand in hand, a form of vertical integration.
-Where have you lived abroad and how have your experiences in any way influenced your development of 17 Mile Post and EITS Cafe.
I studied and lived in Toronto, Canada that gave me great exposure to cultures and food options from around the world. EITS Cafe offers a European and Jamaican fusion dining experience and we continue to add dishes from other cultures if we feel that they are both interesting and tasty.
-How do your clients find you?
Initially I went to many markets and fairs. I was also chosen to be a part of Richard Branson’s Centre of Entrepreneurship, which provides young entrepreneurs with great exposure to local and foreign networks and opportunities. I’m also a part of the Caribbean Women Entrepreneur Network, that is a similar group of young entrepreneurs, sharing knowledge and opportunities. Both networks provide great exposure to the public through social media and advertising.
Now, I also have a Facebook page, am on Trip Advisor, Instagram, Booking.com, Hostel World and in many travel guidebooks and magazines including Lonely Planet and Petit Fute.
-Do you use the Internet for marketing 17 Mile Post and EITS Cafe?
Instagram has been one of the best tools for me. We also have a Facebook page that I am expanding. Social Media is a very effective marketing tool but we have to be mindful that we have the product that lives up to the billing otherwise the customers or guests will be disappointed. I therefore find myself more “present” in the business as oppose to sitting in front of the computer for hours on end doing marketing- In recent times I will definitely allocate more time for social media
-What is the best part of working and living in the Blue Mountains?
The Blue Mountains are beautiful- nature at its best with cool fresh air and breathtaking mountain views and Kingston city in the distant. I find that living in the Blue Mountains allows me to be mindful of the businesses as well as enjoy some of what is on offer. It is a tranquil existence.
-How would you describe EITS Cafe’s take on Jamaican Cuisine?
EITS Cafe- Europe In The Summer offers a fusion of European and Jamaican cuisine employing Jamaican and European dishes while incorporating a wide variety of local ingredients.
-Do you “have a signature dish”, do you have a staple offering?
We have a range of popular offerings for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, Dessert & Beverages however I have included some of our top favourites.
Eggs Florentine served on a bed of Calaloo on a homemade English Muffin topped with Ackee Sauce
Food Basket Farm Fresh Mixed Green Salad topped with Cherry Tomatoes & Cucumber
Food Basket Farm Fresh Arugula Salad topped with Caramelized Onions & Sugar Glazed Walnuts
We also make our own dressings including:
Buttermilk Green Goddess Dressing and Farm Fresh Herb Pesto, Herbed Butters & Infused Oils
Barrel Roasted Chicken- this is one of our popular dishes when the chicken is slow roasted over hot coals in a barrel
For dessert we are known for our Rum Fire Ice Cream Cake and Sweet Crepes topped with Banana Flambé
-Is there a secret for a successful hospitality business?
Running a business in Jamaica can be a challenge but there is so much to offer that despite the setbacks, it is important to set long term goals and work towards them.
Determination & Strength- Do what you love and never give up!
Involvement- It is important, especially in the service industry, to be on site and present as much as possible. Know what is going on in the businesses at all times and provide staff with tools and support to provide customers with quality and service!
Integrity- Try and be loyal to your customers and staff. Represent your brand and be faithful to what you say you are representing!
A happy and satisfied customer can do so much for your business in the way of referrals just as an unhappy one will cause people to stay away.
-Any advice you want to give to someone starting a similar activity?
Make sure this is what you love. Put your heart into it as the service industry can be challenging but when you love your job and sharing your island with others it becomes natural and very easy!