The Abaco Neem Story
Unleashing the Potential of a Miraculous Tree
By Nick Mioulis
The Neem tree came into my life when I met Mr. John Conrick, the author of the book ‘Neem – The Ultimate Herb’, at a botanical show in Gainesville, Florida in 1992. Intrigued by its potential benefits, I delved deeper into researching neem at the University of Florida library. As I discovered its numerous advantages, I realized that neem could bring significant improvements to the health, agriculture, and economy of the Bahamas, my home country.
Despite initial doubts about its suitability for Abaco Island’s thin topsoil, I learned that the neem tree acts as a fertilizer, enriching the ground rather than depleting it. Furthermore, it only requires 18 inches of rain annually. Convinced of its potential, I took a chance on neem, hoping it would protect our environment, preserve our water supply, and address prevalent health issues such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
With the guidance of Mr. Conrick, I imported 8,000 neem seeds from India in 1993. To help lay outthe farm plan, I enlisted the expertise of Mr. Albert Albury, an experienced Bahamian farmer. Despite challenges, such as only 10% of the seeds surviving, we persisted. In February 1994, I leased 60 acres of Crown land near Casuarina Point and established the Abaco Neem Farm. Financing the venture required borrowing money against my personal real estate. I cleared the land with the help of local labour, prepared it, and planted the surviving 800 seedlings in a grid formation. This marked the birth of the world’s first organic neem tree farm.
Over the next three years, we carefully tended the farm, eventually reaping our first neem fruit harvest. We propagated thousands of seeds to expand the farm while also selling potted neem trees to homeowners, generating revenue to support ongoing land preparation and labour costs. We marketed the tree for its environmental and health benefits, strategically planting neem trees throughout the capital city, New Providence.
What sets neem apart is its dual role as a fertilizer tree and natural pest control. It eliminates the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, aligning with our focus on health. We intercropped neem with fruit trees, emphasizing the concept of food as medicine. Remarkably, the neem trees didn’t attract pests, while beneficial insects like spiders, butterflies, and bees thrived. We even established beehives that produced neem honey.
Our mission expanded to contribute to the healthcare of our country, specifically targeting hypertension and diabetes. Ayurvedic medicine and personal experience affirmed neem’s preventive and immune-boosting properties. We developed a range of health products, including Neem Leaf Extract, Neem Salve for topical use, Pure Organic Neem Oil, and Neem Leaf Herbal Supplements. Our commitment to quality drove us to pursue organic certification, ensuring the highest-grade neem seed oil and leaf extract in our products. For close to 30 years, we have remained dedicated consumers of our own products, embracing the ‘Neematized’ lifestyle.
Recognizing neem’s efficacy in skincare, we expanded our line to include soaps, face cream, lotions, shampoos, and conditioners. Neem’s insect-repellent properties found use in protecting plants, pets, and humans. It repels over 200 non-beneficial insects, including mosquitoes, without causing harm. Additionally, neem attracted beneficial insects like ladybugs and bees. The neem honey from our beehives and beeswax became valuable ingredients in our products.
As an agricultural business, we faced challenges securing financial support from conventional banks, and government subsidies for farmers were non-existent in our region. Nevertheless, we remained dedicated to the farm, reinvesting generated revenue back into it, and embracing a modest lifestyle to keep the business afloat. Personal sacrifice became a way of life, and the farm became a platform for personal growth and reflection.
In 2005, during a real estate course, I had the good fortune to reconnect with a childhood friend named Daphne de Gregory. Our paths crossed again, and I shared with her my passion for farming and the incredible healing properties of neem. Daphne had been struggling with facial discoloration called melasma for years, and I suggested that my neem cream could help her. Initially sceptical, she agreed to give it a try.
Over the course of about 10 months, Daphne faithfully used the neem cream every day. To her amazement, her skin tones gradually evened out, eliminating the need for makeup. She became a true believer in the power of neem and joined me in marketing and promoting the products on other islands in the Bahamas.
To be honest, I had always been drawn to Daphne since our school days. Back then, with a couple of years’ age difference, she never showed any interest in me. Life took us in different directions, and we both got married and started families. Unfortunately, our respective marriages eventually ended. When we found each other again, despite the passing of thirty years since our school days, the spark between us remained. As we embarked on a long-distance courtship filled with heartfelt phone conversations, Daphne made the bold decision to leave her home in Freeport, where she lived with her mother, and move to Abaco. From that moment, our love story unfolded, and the rest, as they say, is history. They say there’s someone for everyone in this world, and it turns out we were each other’s prayers answered. Since then, we’ve been inseparable—a match truly made in heaven.
Daphne and I have been working together ever since, rejuvenating our brand, updating existing products, and introducing new ones to customers across the country. Through her direct interactions with customers, Daphne gained valuable insights into the numerous benefits of neem and became a vital force in expanding our product line.
Her creativity flourished as she redesigned labels and packaging, introducing a new range of complementary products. She also played a pivotal role in establishing our online presence by creating a website and opening social media accounts, allowing us to reach a wider audience and expand our business even further.
Over the course of the next 15 years, our focus remained steadfast. I took charge of farm management, ensuring the highest quality neem production, while Daphne spearheaded the sales and marketing efforts, driving the growth of our business. Together, we fine-tuned every aspect, gradually expanding and refining our operations.
In 2007, Barbara Foreman, a British ex-pat who had lived in the Bahamas for many years, joined us at Abaco Neem. With her business experience and her passion for cooking and crafting, Barbara became our Production Manager. Her meticulous approach to recipes and record-keeping ensures our standards and certifications are maintained. Barbara is a firm believer in neem and we are grateful to have her on our team.
In January 2015, we entered into an agreement with Mr. Martin Vorderwuelbecke of El Retiro ranch in Paraguay, South America, now known as ‘The Neem Project’. As our customer, he recognized the quality of our products and proposed that we start a neem farm on his ranch. After a meeting with him at Abaco, we agreed to help grow 400,000 neem trees from seeds sourced from our certified organic Abaco Neem farm. We transported the seeds in increments of 20,000 twice a year for 3 years to Paraguay, where we planted them, and based on our experience, trained local workers in neem cultivation. This project served the dual purpose of reforesting the cattle fields and enabling future neem product production.
In November 2018, we received an invitation from Mr. Klaus Ferlow, the founder of Ferlow Botanicals and Neem Research in Canada, encouraging us to participate in the Global Neem Trade Fair/Seminar organized by the Neem Wave Exhibition in Mumbai, India. The event, held in December 2018 in Bangalore, was hosted by the WNO (World Neem Organisation). We were honoured to attend and were also encouraged to become members of the organization.
During the Global Neem Trade Fair in Bangalore, we had the opportunity to introduce The Neem Project, our venture in Paraguay, as a prominent producer of high-quality neem raw materials. It was a remarkable experience, and coincidentally, our first friendly encounter at the hotel was with Klaus Ferlow, who eventually became a close friend. He encouraged us to become members of the growing neem community. Subsequently, both The Neem Project (Paraguay) and Abaco Neem Limited (Bahamas) became members of the WNO. During that same trip to Bangalore, we had the good fortune to meet a young man, Alok Behera, who has since joined us on our farm in the Bahamas. He has been a wonderful addition to our team. In spring 2022, we had the pleasure of visiting Klaus Ferlow in Roberts Creek, British Columbia, Canada. He is one of the 14 core-founding members of the WNO, representing North America, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Scandinavian countries. We had a wonderful time comparing notes about our combined 60 years working with neem. We were astonished that so many are still unaware of this tree, which has been used in Ayurvedic treatments for centuries.
Throughout our journey, we have encountered numerous obstacles, including hurricanes and other challenges that tested our resilience. One of the most destructive hurricanes in our island’s history, Hurricane Dorian, struck on September 1st, 2019, devastating the center of our island. Thankfully, by some miracle, our building was one of the few structures left standing. The road hasn’t been easy, and now, almost three years later, we are confronted with additional hurdles posed by a global pandemic, economic crisis, and healthcare issues, much like the rest of the world.
Despite facing the challenges of a hurricane and a pandemic, our commitment to our project never wavered. We persevered and not only continued our work but also improved on our overall
efficiency by moving our entire operation from the city to the farm where we have 100% solar power and water. Beyond our neem products, Abaco Neem has evolved into a haven for those seeking to explore the remarkable benefits of the Neem tree and embrace a holistic approach to living. We warmly welcome locals, students, and travellers from around the world to experience the ‘Good Life’ on ourfarm.
Our journey with the Neem tree began over three decades ago when a pamphlet at a botanical show captivated us. We have since discovered the many wonders of the neem tree. Its exceptional
drought tolerance and ability to enrich the soil with nutrients have amazed us. Walking through the neem groves on our farm, we find solace in the refreshing shade it provides on scorching summer days and are enchanted by their magical ambiance under the moonlit sky. The tree’s fruits attract a diverse array of bird species, contributing to a lively ecosystem. We have also rescued and nurtured numerous orchids, finding a welcoming sanctuary within the neem’s rough bark and anti-fungal properties. Our farm boasts over 120 other varieties of fruiting and flowering trees, attracting countless bird species as evident from the numerous nests scattered across our cultivated acres. During our latest audit conducted by Aurelien Flon (a French intern who spent 8 weeks with us), he identified 256 nests and spotted nearly 40 different bird species in a single day. This thriving ecosystem is a testament to the harmonious coexistence between the neem tree and wildlife, creating a haven of life and natural beauty.
At Abaco Neem Farm, our mission is to inspire individuals to take control of their well-being, guided by our motto ‘To Help the Body Heal’. We lead by example, living off the grid on our 120-acre
certified organic farm, nourishing ourselves with home-grown fruits, yogurt, granola, and neem honey. As we approach our 70s, we deeply value our health and embrace a comprehensive approach to wellness. Neem serves as our medicine alongside herbs, nutrients, exercise, rest, and an attitude of gratitude. Our farm stands as a sanctuary where the wonders of the neem tree and holistic living converge.
Our neem journey has transformed both us and the Abaco Island community. It has brought environmental sustainability, diversified our economy, and enhanced the health and well-being of
countless individuals. Abaco Neem Farm exemplifies the power of perseverance, driven by our unwavering passion and belief in the potential of nature’s miracles. We invite you to join us on this
transformative journey towards a healthier and more harmonious quality of life.
Nick & Daphne Miaoulis
Abaco Neem Limited “To Help The Body Heal”
THE HEALING POWERS OF NEEM