Local Farmers Provide Freshest Produce and Support the Economy

A pile of locally grown produce awaits consumers. (File photo)
A pile of locally grown produce awaits consumers. (File photo)

Most people enjoy good food, whether it’s self prepared, eaten at a restaurant or provided during Carnival. Human beings need food to function. And most people would agree that everything tastes better when it’s fresh.

And there’s nowhere better to look for fresh food than locally grown fruit and vegetables at roadside stands and farmers markets.

Almost all of the U.S. Virgin Islands’ food supply is imported, at least 98 percent, according to the V.I. Department of Agriculture. That puts the islands at the end of a supply chain that stretches across the sea.

If residents started shifting some of that expenditure to local sources, they could not only ensures the freshest possible produce, but make their food supply more secure while growing the local economy.

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Every million dollars spent on locally grown food supports 32 jobs in the territory. By contrast each million dollar spent on food that’s brought into the territory supports 10 jobs, according to a study issued by the Farmers Market Coalition.

Agriculture Commissioner Carlos Robles said these figures highlight the importance of elevating local farming to a commercial level. A greater reliance on locally produced food would also reduce shipping costs and the use of fossil fuels that move the food around the globe, and would provide incentive to create more local businesses, he said.

And the earnings from locally produced food remains in circulation in the local economy, according to a 2010 study by the USDA’s Economic Research Service. The study found most of the earnings of locally produced food remains in circulation in the local economy and is fairly distributed between all parties involved in production and marketing. Having thriving local businesses decreases shipping costs by 35 percent and boosts tourism with the increase of unique products that come directly from the Virgin Islands.

Creating a strong farming industry is not easy, especially for St. Thomas and St. John with their steep terrain and less than abundant soil deposits.U.S. Secretary of Agriculture George Perdue, who visited the Virgin Islands recently to speak about these drawbacks, pointed to the costs of importing fresh soil and water as obstacles holding local farmers back. However, he also pointed out that in 2011, Florida’s farmers markets, roadside stands, and U- Pick farms collectively made $1.8 billion dollars.

Local food also happens to be far more nutritious when picked fresh. Often times the fruits, vegetables, and frozen meat shipped to supermarkets on-island has spent weeks in transit. By the time it reaches the shelves, the remaining nutrition doesn’t make up for the expensive tax label put on front.

Perdue is collaborating with Robles at the V.I. Department of Agriculture to construct fresh water cisterns in Bordeaux and Dorothea on St. Thomas and Coral Bay on St. John. All of those project will take time to complete, but should help V.I farmers be a secure and reliable brand for its people.

“Yes, we have our challenges with the budget, but I’m going to look at what we have, if I don’t do anything else, to ensure that we have water collection facilities in key areas around our farming communities,” Robles said.
When asked about the possibility of more support from the USDA for farmers who don’t qualify for their program, Perdue replied he could not give them a definitive answer before confirming with his commissioner’s office.

Here is a list of all the local farmers markets across the U.S. Virgin Islands. Remember, supporting them isn’t always the cheaper option, but it’s healthier and more economically productive in the long run.

ST.CROIX

Name Location Hours of Operation
Christiansted Farmers Market Christian “Shan” Hendricks Market, Christiansted Town Saturday:
8:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
La Reine Farmers Market La Reine Saturday:
4:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
G.L.G Plants and Produce South Gate Saturday: 8 a.m. – 12 p.m.
Sejah Farms Casper Holstein Dr.
South East
M-F:  10 a.m. -5 p.m.; Saturdays 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Oswald Jackson Farms Centerline Rd (between Williams Delight RD and Rum Factory Sun.–Thurs.
9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Oluwole Flores Stoney Ground ½ west of intersection of centerline RD. Sun.– Sat.
Noon – 6 p.m.

ST. THOMAS

Name Location Hours of Operation
Rothschild Francis Market Downtown Market
Square
Saturday:
4:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Bordeaux  Hill Country Market Bordeaux 2nd and 4th Sunday:          10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Persaud Fruit and Vegetable stand Water Front Saturday
9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Maude Vegetable Stand Downtown Market Square M-F: 7 a.m. – 5 p.m.;
Saturdays 5 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Ferdinand Francis Market Near Home depot and Cost U Less Wednesday – Monday
9:30 a.m. -5:30 p.m.

Charles Leonard Market

Marketplace Square
Bordeaux STT

 

Coral Bay St. John

 

1st & 3rd Saturday:
4:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
2nd & last Sunday:
10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

2nd & last Saturday 10 a.m.  – 5 p.m.

 

Alexandrea Tutu Park Mall
Kamayo SDA Church near cost u Less Every 2 and 4th Fridays
Gerald  Hodge Brewers Bay Beach  

Sunday 3 p.m. – 6 p.m.

 

ST.JOHN

Name Location Hours of Operation
Elmo Rabsatt Star Fish Market (Cruz Bay) 2nd Sunday of Month
10 a.m. – 3 p.m.; and Coral Bay Market every Saturday 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Ms. Josephine Roller Estate Carolina
(Coral Bay)
Daily 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
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