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HomeNewsLocal newsGrowing Pains: Where to Buy Locally Produced Food on St. Thomas

Growing Pains: Where to Buy Locally Produced Food on St. Thomas

Charles Leonard’s produce stand is full of local produce at Market Square.
Charles Leonard’s produce stand is full of local produce at Market Square.

Even though the territory has a year-round growing season and there are fruit-producing trees all around, it’s still difficult to regularly find local produce in the Virgin Islands.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, about 98 to 99 percent of food in the territory is imported, though exact data is hard to come by due to the lack of reporting and sampling on farms.

Carlos Robles, commissioner of the V.I. Department of Agriculture, said this figure underscores the importance of growing more local food on a commercial level in the territory.

Growing food on all of the islands is no small feat. Water availability, soil quality and steep slopes make farmers work extra hard to produce food. With its high mountains, St. Thomas is especially prone to erosion.

To encourage them to keep growing, local farmers need regular business to sustain their operation and livelihoods. If their source of income is too unpredictable, full-time farmers can understandably get discouraged.

Eating locally produced fruits and vegetable on a regular basis not only supports farmers in the community, it’s also more nutritious. After being picked, the nutrients in produce diminish over time. Most of the food that is shipped here was harvested up to weeks before it makes to the local supermarket.

So where can consumers consistently find produce on St. Thomas? According to Billy Abraham, director of marketing at the V.I. Department of Agriculture, local produce can be purchased at the following locales.

Bordeaux Farmers Market, Bordeaux

Open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. the second and last Sunday of every month, the Bordeaux Farmers Market is worth the drive to the island’s west end. The market usually has about five vendors who sell locally grown vegetables and fruits like greens, peppers, cucumbers, mango and bananas. There’s also prepared vegan-friendly food that’s expertly spiced with local herbs.

Run by We Grow Food Inc., the name of the farming collective that tills the land in the area, many of the group’s farmers are Rastafarian and eat a veggie-based diet in accordance with the religion’s belief system.

Locally grown quash, plantains and bananas fill a vendor’s colorful table.
Locally grown quash, plantains and bananas fill a vendor’s colorful table.

Members of We Grow Food Inc. take farming seriously, as evidenced by their official statement: “To lose agriculture is to lose our culture, integrity, self worth and pride. Without these characteristics, we, as a people fail to exist.”

Sanderilla Thomas Bungalow, Market Square, Charlotte Amalie

Every Saturday the perimeter of this square is lined with vendors selling produce from around the territory, as well as prepared foods and hot sauces.

Running from 4:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., it’s best to go early for a wider selection and to make sure you don’t miss out on the popular vegan stews made by Ras Nashamba-I, which always sell out by mid-morning.

On the outskirts of the square, local fishermen sell freshly-caught fish and lobster from the back of their pickup trucks. Snapper and triggerfish are commonly available.

Later this month a selection of vendors at the market will again accept vouchers for the Women, Infants and Children Farmers Market Nutrition Program, or WICFMNP, which allows women to use the food dollar benefit at farmers markets.

Yacht Haven Grande, Charlotte Amalie

On the first and third Sunday of the month, there’s a farmers market near the Shops at Yacht Haven Grande. There you’ll find fresh produce and local crafts that are made in the territory. The market runs from 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m.

According to the organizer’s website, the market “supports our local food growers, artisans, and producers, helping create a vibrant community with easy access to locally-grown farm fresh food and products made in the USVI.”

In addition to the weekly markets above, some roadside stands sell fresh produce as well, some of which is locally-produced with a lot of it coming from other islands in the Lesser Antilles region.

The Persad stand along the waterfront in Charlotte Amalie is open seven days a week. A stand near Cost U Less sells produce a few days of the week, and one just south of Ivanna Eudora Kean High School is open most days.

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