Daily News. Saturday, January 2, 1999 19
St. Croix's land can be used
to boost the economy
"The heart of America has ist or pomologist. Many of these
always been its land; said Michael Olas e Davis fruits have promising qualities that
D. Jawson of the U.S. Department could be developed"
of Agriculture. "It was the promise have given lip service to the devel- Although St Croix lost its agri-
of land that lured many of the men opment of agriculture in these cultural glory in the early 1800s,
and women who settled this islands, especially during a political the island still has the potential of
country, starting with the 104 year. According to the local feeding itself in certain food crops.
English who landed at Department ofAgricuhurcl statis- Surprisingly, almost everybody I
Jamestown, V.. in May 160T tics, 12,600 acres of agricultural spoke to about the papers series
Recently, a series of articles land is in private holding on St blamed the downfall of the indus-
were published in The Daily News Croix. The local government owns try on the government. not natural
addressing agriculture on St Croix 2,200 acres of farmland, most of phenomena.
as a possible variable industry to which is leased out to fatmers.lh In 1976 Dr Frank L. Mills wrote
help boost the island's economy, total amount of land used in agri- an aricle for the rgin Islands
like America. the heart of St. culture presently on St Croix is Agriculture and Food Fair entitled.
Croix, historically, has been its fer- greater than St. Johnt total "Public Evidence for a Mgorous
tile agricultural land. In fact. one acreage 128,335. Agricultural Program:' Ha stated a
time in the history of St. Croix, 97 From the 1780s to the 1820s number of advantages to be
percent of the land was cultivated. the maximum acreage of sugar derived by the expansion of agri-
No wonder St. Croix was once cane ever planted on St. Croix was culture in the territory.
known in the Caribbean and 21655 acres. In 1841 just before First, he said, plowing should
Europe as "the garden spot of the emancipation, there were 23.971 resume on several hundred acres
West Indies" the "breadbasket of acres of land on St. Cmix in sugar of agricultural land being held for
the Caribbean" and "the Garden of cane. Around 1889 the total num- speculation on St. Croix. Second.
Eden" From the Indians who ber of acres in cane cultivation on he stated. "Employment opportu-
inhabited St. Croix long before the SL Croix was 16.479, yielding a lit- cities in sowing, reaping, market-
first European landed at Salt River tIe less than 15.000 tons of sugar ing and processing wo.ld certainly
in 1493 to the Danish who grew 118,000 gallons of rum and increase, especially on SL Croix,
thousands of acres of sugar cane, 271.400 gallons of molasses, where unemployment levels are
they recognized the agricultural together valued at $1S,069,324. By probably highest in the territory"
potential of the island. the 1890s the total number of Third, he said, "The need to
lbday many sugar mills and men employed in agriculare on include freight costs in the price of
great houses dotting the land- St. Croix was 3,635. or 23.6 to imported food articles is said to be
scape of St. Croix are a testimony every 100 acres.The total number largely responsible for the very
to the island's rich agricultural his- of women was 2,73, or 17.9 to high food costs in the territory,
story. Personally, I believe St. Croix evry 100 acres, especially on St. Thomas" A
is the last frontier of the Virgin The number of mules was strong agricultural program, he
Islands, and agriculture, eco- 1,211, or 79 to every 100 acres* believed, would most likely lower
tourism and light industries should and the number of ene was food costs and boost food quality.
be the focus for the 21st century. 1,576. or 10.3 per 100 acres.'hese Fourth, he said, "The continual
The question is. Will agriculture figures don't include overseers flow of capital from the territory
get its due?The majority of people and their families, owners, man- would be stemmed considerably.
in the virgin Islands want agricul- agers, squaser or children under and that capital would be reinvest-
nure to play a role or a major role in 13 years of age. D. Charles E ed in local agricultural enterprises"
our economy. Mllspauh sated in 1895 Lile Fih, he basically said the agri-
Most people I spoke with about Lagrange has an extensive banana cultural land that is now being
the paper' agriculture series field, and over 10.000 pineapples used for housing development
asked. "Why not make St. Croix were grown. Spring Gardens has would be safe if agriculture
the agricultural hub of the 'irgin extensive plantations of cocoa, became a major focus for the
Islands?"The island has proved its cofe. mangoes, oranges, vanilla diversification of St. Croix econo-
agricultural worth, one person etc. There is no doubt that the my. Addressing water and drought
said, by producing food for itself future prosperity of the island periods, I believe they can be over-
and Denmark. With the technolo- depends largely on the growing of come if we really want to feed our-
gy we have now, why not apply it fmlit" selves. Believe me, other coun-
and make agriculture profitable in He further stated, "Besides tries do it. Why not us?
the virgin Islands, particularly St. bananas, pineapples, oranges. This article reflects the views of
Croixlb me, these are all valuable lemons, limes and coconuts. a Olasee Davs. a Sr. Croix ecologist,
questions I think our political lead- number of fruits not so commonly activist and writer who holds a
era need to address in 1999. known are grown, making St. master of science degree in range
Tbo oPcn our political leaders Croix a fine field for the horticulur- management and forestry ecology