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Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, May 19, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesLocal Farmers Look into Poultry Co-op

Local Farmers Look into Poultry Co-op

V.I. residents spend nearly $16 million dollars a year on imported eggs and poultry, according to the territory’s top agricultural official, who brought in experts this week to help local farmers cash in on that action.

Nearly 20 local poultry producers met Thursday night at the St. Croix campus of the University of the Virgin Islands and a similar meeting was held Wednesday on St. Thomas to discuss creating a sustainable V.I. poultry farmers’ cooperative.

Agriculture Commissioner Louis Petersen met executives from Novus International, a global developer of animal health and nutrition programs, at a conference last year and invited them to come to the islands to meet with local farmers.

Petersen said Wednesday that after meeting Scott Fleetwood, the executive director of global marketing for Novus, he could see where the group could help the territory develop a cooperative effort. This could lead to big profits for local farmers, he said, and Fleetwood agreed, saying that with the right marketing, the V.I. could develop a thriving enterprise. Petersen said that “Virgin Fresh” could be used as catch phrase for the logo.

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Along with marketing, Novus associate, Ellen Dierenfeld pointed out that the territory has all the right components to make the enterprise sustainable. As the senior manager for research and development in Africa, she said both locales had a lot in common: Sun, local food such as cassava and amaranth, and protein from acacias, or tan-tan.

In Africa, she found that poultry performs well with the natural environment and said that co-ops there don’t rely on imported grains to be sustaining. Dierenfeld also said that fish byproducts or restaurant waste could be used in the V.I. as poultry feed for protein, and the cassava could be given to them as an energy source.

"This could truly be successful here, and really embraced — and with ‘Virgin Fresh’ it would add to the product," she said.

Fleetwood said that the two highest costs for poultry production are energy consumption and imported grains. If the territory relied solely on local products for poultry feed, he said it could save an enormous amount of money.

"The Virgin Islands could be completely self-sustaining, by using solar power and relying on the raw ingredients that grow here," Fleetwood said.

One way to start immediately saving Fleetwood said is to buy grain in bulk rather than paying individually for a 50-pound bag.

While one local farmer was put off by the term “co-op,” others said the name could easily be changed to something like “collective farming,” sparking a discussion about how to begin the process. Linda Lacy-Hodge, a local poultry producer, looked around at the other farmers and said that she was tired of spending so much money on grain.

“Let’s do it – we can start by getting together to purchase grain. I can take the numbers down and when the grain comes, we’ll just split the costs,” she said.

Kwame Boahene of Novus explained how a cooperative helped feed his family growing up in Ghana. He said that his mother started as a small cocoa farmer and reached out to the community to create a large sustainable co-op. Lives changed, and poverty and hunger decreased significantly in his village.

“Everybody needs to eat. It is projected that by October 31 of this year, we will hit 7 billion people. Are you going to see that 7 billion as an opportunity, or as a challenge? You decide,” Boahene said.

The meetings were also sponsored by UVI’s Cooperative Extension service and the Virgin Islands Small Business Development Center.

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V.I. residents spend nearly $16 million dollars a year on imported eggs and poultry, according to the territory’s top agricultural official, who brought in experts this week to help local farmers cash in on that action.

Nearly 20 local poultry producers met Thursday night at the St. Croix campus of the University of the Virgin Islands and a similar meeting was held Wednesday on St. Thomas to discuss creating a sustainable V.I. poultry farmers’ cooperative.

Agriculture Commissioner Louis Petersen met executives from Novus International, a global developer of animal health and nutrition programs, at a conference last year and invited them to come to the islands to meet with local farmers.

Petersen said Wednesday that after meeting Scott Fleetwood, the executive director of global marketing for Novus, he could see where the group could help the territory develop a cooperative effort. This could lead to big profits for local farmers, he said, and Fleetwood agreed, saying that with the right marketing, the V.I. could develop a thriving enterprise. Petersen said that “Virgin Fresh” could be used as catch phrase for the logo.

Along with marketing, Novus associate, Ellen Dierenfeld pointed out that the territory has all the right components to make the enterprise sustainable. As the senior manager for research and development in Africa, she said both locales had a lot in common: Sun, local food such as cassava and amaranth, and protein from acacias, or tan-tan.

In Africa, she found that poultry performs well with the natural environment and said that co-ops there don’t rely on imported grains to be sustaining. Dierenfeld also said that fish byproducts or restaurant waste could be used in the V.I. as poultry feed for protein, and the cassava could be given to them as an energy source.

"This could truly be successful here, and really embraced -- and with 'Virgin Fresh' it would add to the product," she said.

Fleetwood said that the two highest costs for poultry production are energy consumption and imported grains. If the territory relied solely on local products for poultry feed, he said it could save an enormous amount of money.

"The Virgin Islands could be completely self-sustaining, by using solar power and relying on the raw ingredients that grow here," Fleetwood said.

One way to start immediately saving Fleetwood said is to buy grain in bulk rather than paying individually for a 50-pound bag.

While one local farmer was put off by the term “co-op,” others said the name could easily be changed to something like “collective farming,” sparking a discussion about how to begin the process. Linda Lacy-Hodge, a local poultry producer, looked around at the other farmers and said that she was tired of spending so much money on grain.

“Let’s do it – we can start by getting together to purchase grain. I can take the numbers down and when the grain comes, we’ll just split the costs,” she said.

Kwame Boahene of Novus explained how a cooperative helped feed his family growing up in Ghana. He said that his mother started as a small cocoa farmer and reached out to the community to create a large sustainable co-op. Lives changed, and poverty and hunger decreased significantly in his village.

“Everybody needs to eat. It is projected that by October 31 of this year, we will hit 7 billion people. Are you going to see that 7 billion as an opportunity, or as a challenge? You decide,” Boahene said.

The meetings were also sponsored by UVI's Cooperative Extension service and the Virgin Islands Small Business Development Center.