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It's Time for Agriculture to Get Serious Attention


I was pleased to see an agriculture business is coming into the Virgin Islands. Agriculture has been put on the back burner by our government for too long when it should have been upfront all along. My father, Silvie Berry, was a farmer and also served time as the president of the Farmers Association. He fought with this government to promote agriculture and resolve problems farmers were having back in the 70's and 80's to no avail. He always believed we could sustain ourselves food-wise as well as develop exporting opportunities with locally grown produce and plants. My father traveled to Disney World Epcot Center's hydroponics farm almost 20 yrs ago searching out information he thought would be beneficial in farming. Upon his returned he described how farming was being done without dirt. He was fascinated with its potential. He was also into organic farming, something that has now re-birthed itself across the United States in the last several years.
It's a shame to see what was once a thriving area on the north side of
St. Thomas has basically gone down the drain. Where terraces of produce once existed and was featured in National Geographic is now land littered with a few animals, trash, and junk cars. Politics was the direct cause for our own farm to no longer exist. Because our farm sat on government property, upon my father's death, the farm was taken away instantly, not even notifying or allowing us to get the produce that was on it, and given away as a political favor. I hope with this agriculture business coming into the Virgin Islands the politics around farming will improve greatly to be what it should have been all along.
We are in 2005. Instead of progressing to a point we should have been at, things deteriorated. Agriculture should have been thriving strongly on all our islands St. Croix could have benefited even much more than St. Thomas due to the fact they have less steep terrain. Agriculture could have by now been a huge mainstay of their economy and great plus to St. Thomas economy as well. We could have been in a position that would have benefited every person at the grocery stores, farmer's businesses, and could have possibly grown to an exporting level. We live in an area that does not go through winter seasons. Agriculture is an area that doesn't depend on tourism. We have the potential from anything food related to tropical plants and flowers that are sought after by so many in other regions.
Instead of our government pushing this area that could have potentially boosted our economy in so many ways positively, they opt for things like gambling. Gambling has brought funds to the economy but for the struggling local individuals who think luck could be on their side to improve their personal financial situations gambling addictions is rearing its head in our community. Soon enough we will need grants to deal with gambling addictions.
It's a shame that it will take an off-island agriculture business to come in and make many heads turn to agriculture more seriously, when we already had local native visionaries and local farmers that were here trying to get attention seriously focused on agriculture over the past 30 plus years. Imagine where we could have been today had anyone in government really listened. It will be interesting to watch and see where agriculture will be at in 5, 10, or 30 years from now.
I hope and encourage every farmer past, present, and future to participate in the training on each and all of our islands that any agriculture based business is willing to provide. I will be there too. I too wish to see first hand what it was my father was so excited about when he saw hydroponics farming at Epcot Center. I hope also that one day his dream of these islands being able to sustain themselves food-wise is a day that finally comes into realization.
Agriculture should also be a focus in schools for kids to learn about its importance. It would be wonderful to see agriculture get to the point where even schools grew and maintained their own small gardens too.
It's about time serious attention is turned to Agriculture!
Carol Berry
St. Thomas
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