Group Title: Olasee Davis articles
Title: Take politics out of Agrifest
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 Material Information
Title: Take politics out of Agrifest
Physical Description: Archival
Language: English
Creator: Davis, Olasee
Publication Date: February 15, 1997
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: CA01300919
Volume ID: VID00187
Source Institution: University of the Virgin Islands
Holding Location: University of the Virgin Islands
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

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Virgin Islands

The Daily News, Saturday, February 15. 1997 15

Take politics out of Agrifest

The environment is full with the
spirit of the Virgin Islands Agricul-
ture and Food Fair for 1997
The annual event on St. Croix
attracts thousands of residents who
look forward to tasting local food
and seeing the many displays of
animals and plants. Visitors from
the mainland as well as down-island
also attend the agriculture festival
Here, the University of the Vir-
gin Islands Cooperative Extension
Service, Agricultural Experiment
Station and the local Department of
Agriculture showcase the latest sci-
entific breakthroughs in agricultural
technology in plants, animals and
foods. At such events, politicians
give lovely speeches of what they
will do for the Virgin Islands agri-
culture industry.
But the reality is that most of
them talk from both sides of their
mouths, saying nothing. It is a
"bunch of hogwash," as one local
farmer put it. The Virgin Islands
Agriculture and Food Fair has
become an event not to showcase
the technology of food production,
but a forum for politicians who
often get in the way of making agri-
culture one of our major industry in
these islands.
Although the industrial and
tourist industry have improved the
economics of the Virgin Islands, the
improvement of agriculture remains
a low priority for many leaders.
The Virgin Islands have a rich
agriculture history, especially on St.
Croix, which once was called the
"gardening spot" of the Caribbean.
Today, almost all our food is
Imported, while thousands of acres
of land stay idle.
The theme for this year's agri-
culture and food fair is "Agro-
Industry: An Opportunity for Eco-
nomic Diversity."
If we are talking about agricul-


tural diversity, we must also talk
about processing agricultural goods.
To me, one of the greatest opportu-
nities in the Virgin Islands lies in
the processing of fruits for local
consumption and export. Fruit pro-
cessing would include jellies, jams,
extracts, fruit juices, chutneys and
other agricultural products.
Before the phasing out of sugar
cane in 1966 on St. Croix, a plan
was proposed to establish a com-
mercial processing plant for fruit on
St. Croix.
In 1962, 2,500 acres of suitable
agricultural land was set aside to
grow oranges. These 2,500 acres
are located on east Castle Burk,
Jealousy. Lower Love, Coble, Beth-
lehem Old Works, Golden Grove,
Body Slob, Fredensborg, Adven-
ture, Upper Bethlehem, and Bonne
One of the purposes behind
establishing a orange industry in the
Virgin Islands was to extract orange
juice and make orange concentrate
for sale in the world market includ-
ing the United States. The St. Croix
orange plant was to consists of a
floating factory on which the pro-
cessing and concentrating machine.
cry would be located, plus shore-
side installations for fruit handling,
canning, freezing, and storing.
Also, the orange plant was to
manufacture citrus pulp into cattle
feed. The establishment of the
orange factory on St. Croix never
really get off the ground because of
dirty politics, one local farmer stat-
ed. Today, most of the central pri-
mary agricultural land on St. Croix

is used to build schools, National
Guard headquarters, housing, and
other non-farm uses.
Globally speaking, agricultural
lands are threatened. Each year,
some of the world best fertile agri-
cultural land goes out of produc-
tion. It is paved over as the world
claims uncounted millions of acres
each year. This threat to farmland is
not happening to so-called undevel-
oping countries, but developed
countries as well.
Canada. the second largest
exporter of cereals after the United
States, is losing large chunks of its
best farmland to urban develop-
ments and other non-agricultural
uses. The United States shares the
same problem of losing productive
These trends do not suggest that
Canada and the United States will
themselves experience food short-
ages, but It does suggest that the
world's ever-growing dependence
on the United States is risky. If the
Virgin Islands does not start grow-
ing some of its own food, we could
find ourselves in some serious trou-
Like other countries, these
islands are losing good agricultural
If this government believes in
economic diversity, then strong
action must be taken in the develop-
ment of the islands' agriculture
industry. The agriculture industry
not only produces food, but pre-
serves open land.
The food fair is just one example
of how agriculture can play a major
role in the diversification of our
islands economy.
After all, we all have to cat and
live in an environment that is con-
ducive to a healthy economy.
Olasee Davis, who has a master
of science degree in range manage-
ment and forestry ecology, is a St.
Croix ecologist, activist and writer.

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