Nov. 24, 2002 – Many of those swarming the grounds of the Reichhold Center for the Arts at this weekend's St. Thomas-St. John Agriculture and Food Fair took its theme — "Support Agriculture: Eat What You Grow" — to heart, purchasing herb plants, fruit tree cuttings and vegetable seedlings.
Louis Petersen, fair committee member and St. Thomas-St. John district supervisor for the Cooperative Extension Service at the University of the Virgin Islands, said on Sunday: "What distinguishes the fair is that it's grassroots, not commercial. Foods or crafts for sale are either grown here or made here. That's what makes this fair stand out and why the theme is so appropriate."
To make it easier for visitors to access the crop, food, craft, entertainment and animal display areas, the committee revamped the exhibition layout this year.
"We were responsive to comments from the community about the layout of the booths and distance between them," Petersen said. "We've heard good feedback and enjoyed a good turnout both Saturday and today."
The vegetable offerings included several locally grown items not commonly seen before, including corn and red beets.
"Oh they went fast," said Benita Martin of We Grow Food Inc., an organization of more than a dozen Bordeaux farmers.
Tomatoes and greens are Martin's main crops.
"The most profitable are greens, cucumber and eggplant," she said. "That's what people are looking for, so we prioritize to grow these. Eggplant, especially, because it's a staple food in so many cultures — Italians, Indians. The corn and beets take longer to grow."
Martin added, "The water from the two dams helps a lot."
(The dams are a new asset for We Grow Food. See "Bordeaux farmers' first dam is nearly finished".)
Farmer and beekeeper Charles Leonard was selling bananas, herbs such as basil and lemongrass and, of course, honey, for sale. "Honey is most popular, " he said.
Other produce offerings included sugar cane, hot peppers, sweet bell peppers, papaya, avocados, sugar apples and limes.
In the arts and crafts area, Mary Louise Lauffer showcased her calabash bowls, some of them crafted into garlic holders and bird feeders. "Each calabash grows into a slightly different shape," she said, "so the fun in working with it is to create different kinds of objects."
Kids especially enjoyed the petting zoo and Shetland pony rides.
"Oh, it's so cute," 10-year-old Chelsea McAllister, a Sts. Peter and Paul fifth grader, said as she held and petted a black furry bunny.
Donkeys, cows, goats, chickens, peacock, guinea fowl, ferrets, love birds, doves and pigeons were among the animals visitors could view and touch.
The ready-to-eat food part of the fair had a record 28 booths this year.
"Fry fish, that's what's going fast," said a shy server at Henry's booth, where pickup saltfish and saltfish cakes were being eyed appetizingly by passersby.
At N'Thing But Veggie, "the tofu scallop is a big seller," Cheryl Dasant said. Also on the menu at the vegetarian booth were barbecued tofu, gluten steak, macaroni and cheese, cassava dumplings, kallaloo, and such drinks as "carrot blend," "super greens" and maubi.
Sheila Shulterbrandt won first prize for the largest turkey with her whopping 34.5-pound bird.
Boasting a confection that tasted as good as it looked, Anna Quetel took the blue ribbon for Best Sweetbread.
The maubi competition was still being judged as the fair closed Sunday evening.
This year's fair, like last year's, started off on Friday with a School Agriculture Activity Day of student exhibits and presentations for youngsters at nine "learning stations" that included rabbit raising, cabbage art, solar energy and a marine creatures touch pond.
"We had a record turnout Friday," Petersen said. "The kids were so enthusiastic. In fact, one student got so excited about the marine exhibit that he fell in the pool and tipped it over!"
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