Charles Jackson was born and raised on the island, and has spent the past 11 years working as the gardener at the Annaberg Plantation. I’ve had the privilege of spending ample time with Charles, wandering through his garden and sampling a variety of fruits, herbs and sugarcane over the years. For the past two-and-a-half years, I’ve routinely taken my island tour guests to meet Charles. He’s a special person and one of our island’s treasures.
You may be wondering what motivates Charles to tend to the plantation’s garden year after year. For him, it’s quite simple.
“I like plants. I’m a plant person. I like to feed people. I like to be in charge. Land and food, you get woman. Land and food. So I do it,” Charles says with a smile. “I feel happy. You don’t work, you don’t get paid. I like it. It makes me happy.”
“When you plant a tree, it’s growing,” he continued. “It makes my work over. It’s finished.”
But it’s really not that simple. Charles doesn’t just plant something and move on. He tends to it, cares for it and he really knows a lot about what’s growing in his garden. Sure he has delicious fruits like mangoes, genips and papaya. But there is so much more happening behind the fences.
Recently I brought an island tour guest to the garden who had neck pain. He grabbed a leaf from a Noni tree and handed to my guest. “Put it on your skin to work the body,” he said. Charles refers to the tree as the “Painkiller Bush.” He also said when its fruit is soft and mushy that you can blend it and “it makes you feel healthy.”
Recently I complained to Charles about my one-year-old son and how he thinks thinks sleep is the enemy. He wandered over to a soursop bush, grabbed a leaf and handed it to me. He told me to crush up just a bit and put it into the baby’s bottle. He said it would help him sleep. Perhaps it was a coincidence but Dalton actually slept well that night.
Charles also believes that soursop can help cure cancer. And you know what? I believe him.
Charles is at Annaberg every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. His full-time position was scaled back following the 2017 storms. I hope the National Park Services realizes what a treasure Charles is for our island to those who visit us and reinstate his full time hours soon.
(February 2020 update: Charles is now full time!)
In the meantime, please be sure to stop by Annaberg on your next trip and say hello. The garden is located on your right as you walk up the hill at Annaberg.