V.I. Agriculture Commissioner Louis E. Petersen Jr. headed to Puerto Rico this week, with beekeepers in tow, to promote the territory’s Virgin Fresh brand at the 18th Annual Florida Caribbean Cruise Association (FCCA) Conference and Trade Show in San Juan.
The conference, which runs from Oct. 3–7, draws top officials from the 15 FCCA member cruise lines and nearly 1,000 industry partners who come together to share ideas and discuss industry trends.
Petersen will spend the week in Puerto Rico working to promote the Virgin Fresh brand by showing off some local honey products made by the territory’s beekeepers. Wanda Wright from St. Croix and Charles Barry from St. Thomas brought their sweetest and most popular products to sell in San Juan.
“They brought honeys, special honey-hot pepper sauce, beeswax soaps, and mead – a special kind of wine made from honey,” Petersen said. “I wish I had a camera right now because some cruise executives are tasting the wine,” he told the Source.
According to Petersen, the tradeshow brought in representatives spanning the entire Caribbean and beyond.
“We have even seen some people from Colombia, and so far, we appear to be very unique – I haven’t seen anything like what we have,” Petersen said of the honey products.
Later in the week, Petersen plans to bring the V.I. beekeepers to a large-scale honey-producing operation at the Apiarios Caraballo beekeeping cooperative in Yauco, Puerto Rico. Two other beekeepers from the territory will be joining Petersen for the tour: Roniel Allembert from St. Croix and Elmo Rabsatt from St. John.
“Our goal is to promote the territory, with the diverse education and economy for V.I. Agriculture,” Petersen said. “Virgin Fresh value-added products appeal to others outside of the territory.”
Petersen said the Virgin Fresh brand is a marketing campaign that is used specifically for agricultural commodities produced in the territory. The campaign began in 2009, after the Department received a Specialty Crop Block Grant of $100,000 to fund the Apicultural (Beekeeping) Project.
Since the Virgin Fresh Beekeeping Project’s inception, the Department has trained more than 100 students on all three islands in the science, business and art of beekeeping. Petersen’s long-term goals are to have the products picked up by the cruise lines.
“We really hope that cruise line executives will be enthused about our products, and we realize that it we will have to get licensing and go through the process, but it would be great,” Petersen said.
Petersen was impressed by beekeepers Wright and Barry, and said that the 12-week training courses they had from 2007 to 2009 must have paid off.
“They were able to prepare and take much pride in how they present themselves, and I’m really happy about that,” he said.
V.I. Tourism Commissioner Beverly Nicholson-Doty invited Petersen to join the territory’s delegation to the cruise conference, and tour the beekeeping cooperative in Yauco.
“We already have a big formation of beekeepers on all three islands, and so we will be encouraging them to continue expanding the V.I. Beekeepers Association,” Petersen said. “I just want to help them empower themselves to enhance production, marketing and lobbying efforts.”
In addition to the V.I. Department of Tourism, project partners include the UVI Cooperative Extension Service, the Virgin Islands Small Business Development Center, and Virgin Islands beekeepers.