The Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands (CFVI) has announced it has awarded more than $1 million in grants supporting U.S.V.I. farmers and social services clients across the territory through a collaborative grant program funded by the American Red Cross (ARC).
Micro Grant Program for Farmers
Having renewed its presence in the territory, the Red Cross was aware of the challenges facing the local agricultural sector following hurricanes Irma and Maria. In an effort to provide services to help Virgin Islands farmers recover and build resilient systems of agriculture, the American Red Cross (ARC) conceived the Micro Grant Program to assist livelihood recovery for small farmers with distinct unmet needs — specifically, the loss or damage to farm outbuildings, water tanks and other support structures needed to operate a small farm. Ultimately, the program was designed to meet some of the “gaps” in assistance from federal and local government recovery programs.
The Micro Grant Program for farmers resulted in $474,959 being awarded via grants to 104 local farmers/farms on St. Croix ($293,516), St. Thomas ($107,876) and St. John ($73,567). The grant program was designed specifically to provide farmers with the means to start, continue or complete repairs to damaged structures and recover from other losses suffered as a result of hurricanes Irma and Maria. Additional support of $238,617.49 was provided to enable the V.I. Department of Agriculture to replace greenhouses damaged in the storms and to propagate seedlings for community use.
A farmer on St. Thomas expressed appreciation for the assistance, noting, “I’m hoping one day that we as a farming community will be able to feed our neighbors with fresh fruits and vegetables. Hurricane Maria wiped out 72 fruit trees at my farm, but we are replanting and never giving up.”
To be eligible for the grant program, applicants were required to have a V.I. Department of Agriculture license to farm, file an annual IRS Schedule F, provide proof of land ownership or lease/tenancy agreement, and provide proof of loss. The application and review process were conducted by ARC in partnership with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency, the V.I. Department of Agriculture, and the Agricultural Experiment Station of the University of the Virgin Islands.
Beginning in 2018, the program was advertised to solicit small farmers to apply to receive a one-time grant for the repair or replacement of their farm outbuildings, related structures and fixtures (including new construction, repairs and replacement of these essential structures and fixtures).
“CFVI’s grant making to farmers in the aftermath of the hurricanes of 2017 took place over the course of 18 months, including receipt and evaluation of applications, issuing checks and then following up with a second round of grant-making,” said Dee Baecher-Brown, president of CFVI.
“We are so appreciative of the dedication and determination of U.S.V.I. farmers who built themselves back after the storms and are now working to provide local solutions to the worldwide food supply concerns during this era of COVID-19. We are also so thankful to the American Red Cross for their vision in identifying this need and then providing this support in response to the extraordinary situation in the aftermath of the storms.”
“We at The American Red [Cross] are very proud to be a part of the recovery from the 2017 storms and to have had the opportunity to serve the farming community as well as the vulnerable populations. The guidance and team work with CFVI made it possible to help and support the territory in a very successful manner,” said John Duck, Executive Director of the American Red Cross.
“We are now preparing for the 2020 hurricane season and how COVID-19 will affect what we do. Bottom line is The American Red Cross will be here in the U.S. Virgin Islands to serve as needed now and in the future,” Duck said.