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Charlotte Amalie
Tuesday, August 9, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesAGRICULTURE? RANCHING? LET'S GET SERIOUS

AGRICULTURE? RANCHING? LET'S GET SERIOUS

According to local flacks, the Virgin Islands can be self-sufficient with agriculture and ranching — given the right conditions. Anyone can answer all questions, outline solutions to any problem, be all things to all people; using that simple word: given!
Whether one is growing meat, produce or people, the ingredients are the same: space, water and nutrients. Given our priorities, people receive the best land, most of the water and imported nutrients.
There is still the old machismo thing — quantity vs. quality. Then there are relatives, friends and others who relocate to better their standard of living. And they all vote! Of course, there is no shrimp, pepper, fish, cabbage, papaya or yam vote.
The easiest place to plant produce, grow livestock and build low-cost housing is on gentle, well- watered land. In the Virgin Islands, this scarce commodity is given to people.
When economists and planners suggest land-use plans, they are attacked by politicians selling their souls for the popular vote. Instead of acting as educated surrogates for the masses, our senators too often scurry about prostituting themselves to please the masses' most base emotions.
If a man wants to build a commercial temple in a residential zone and can call upon the taxi driver's extended family voting block and the immigrant West Indian voting block, he has political clout.
When the opponents are seen as a gaggle of expatriates and a few old Virgin Islands families who have become strangers in their own land, the temple is a done deal, notwithstanding zoning by the professionals, wishes of the immediate community or constitutional legalities.
Districting with senators responsible to a well-defined constituency would solve some of this problem. A land-use plan and an attorney general with fortitude, elected to uphold the law, could solve even more.
The major item in our race to oblivion is motivation. Only Rastafarians and government grant gourmets appear motivated to grow anything outside of people.
Well-meaning agrarians farm marginal land on the West End, yielding survival living for a few families. Then this wasteland is given to ranchers?? Cattle take up far too much land and eat too many nutrients in exchange for scant meat. The truly productive meat producer is the humble rabbit.
Island ranching depends on minimal human population and lots of empty land. Otherwise, it is a rich man's hobby. In the Virgin Islands we support this hobby with local tax grants and federal feed grants. Few Virgin Islanders can afford the real cost of this meat.
An agrarian cycle requires a fine balance of resources. How many people use how much water, which becomes how much sewage, which can be treated to produce how much agricultural water, with what nutrient levels, piped where to support what type of growth?
What are the costs of developing the water, treating the sewage and getting the outputs to the users? How much rubbish and garbage can we recycle and use, how much can we dispose of, and what are the costs? How much land should be devoted to people and where is it? What relationship do we want between imports and locally produced goods?
All the glossy newspaper articles are so much smoke without hard, calculated logic and economics. In the Virgin Islands we have proven time and time again that we are not willing to make hard decisions. Instead we wallow down the path to disaster with the hope that some far off savior will keep us from becoming another Antigua — and ultimately Haiti.
Are we really so short on vision? Do we really want to practice survival living on the edge of a garbage dump? It does appear so.

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According to local flacks, the Virgin Islands can be self-sufficient with agriculture and ranching -- given the right conditions. Anyone can answer all questions, outline solutions to any problem, be all things to all people; using that simple word: given!
Whether one is growing meat, produce or people, the ingredients are the same: space, water and nutrients. Given our priorities, people receive the best land, most of the water and imported nutrients.
There is still the old machismo thing -- quantity vs. quality. Then there are relatives, friends and others who relocate to better their standard of living. And they all vote! Of course, there is no shrimp, pepper, fish, cabbage, papaya or yam vote.
The easiest place to plant produce, grow livestock and build low-cost housing is on gentle, well- watered land. In the Virgin Islands, this scarce commodity is given to people.
When economists and planners suggest land-use plans, they are attacked by politicians selling their souls for the popular vote. Instead of acting as educated surrogates for the masses, our senators too often scurry about prostituting themselves to please the masses' most base emotions.
If a man wants to build a commercial temple in a residential zone and can call upon the taxi driver's extended family voting block and the immigrant West Indian voting block, he has political clout.
When the opponents are seen as a gaggle of expatriates and a few old Virgin Islands families who have become strangers in their own land, the temple is a done deal, notwithstanding zoning by the professionals, wishes of the immediate community or constitutional legalities.
Districting with senators responsible to a well-defined constituency would solve some of this problem. A land-use plan and an attorney general with fortitude, elected to uphold the law, could solve even more.
The major item in our race to oblivion is motivation. Only Rastafarians and government grant gourmets appear motivated to grow anything outside of people.
Well-meaning agrarians farm marginal land on the West End, yielding survival living for a few families. Then this wasteland is given to ranchers?? Cattle take up far too much land and eat too many nutrients in exchange for scant meat. The truly productive meat producer is the humble rabbit.
Island ranching depends on minimal human population and lots of empty land. Otherwise, it is a rich man's hobby. In the Virgin Islands we support this hobby with local tax grants and federal feed grants. Few Virgin Islanders can afford the real cost of this meat.
An agrarian cycle requires a fine balance of resources. How many people use how much water, which becomes how much sewage, which can be treated to produce how much agricultural water, with what nutrient levels, piped where to support what type of growth?
What are the costs of developing the water, treating the sewage and getting the outputs to the users? How much rubbish and garbage can we recycle and use, how much can we dispose of, and what are the costs? How much land should be devoted to people and where is it? What relationship do we want between imports and locally produced goods?
All the glossy newspaper articles are so much smoke without hard, calculated logic and economics. In the Virgin Islands we have proven time and time again that we are not willing to make hard decisions. Instead we wallow down the path to disaster with the hope that some far off savior will keep us from becoming another Antigua -- and ultimately Haiti.
Are we really so short on vision? Do we really want to practice survival living on the edge of a garbage dump? It does appear so.