Jan. 23, 2006 – The annual Bordeaux Farmers Rastafari Agricultural and Cultural Food Fair is traditionally the end of one farming season and the beginning of another, according to one community resident.
"It's part of our cycle," Ras Cubu Delano-Francis, a former president of the Rastafarian farmers collective We Grow Food Inc., said during this weekend's event held at the Bordeaux Tennis Courts. "Starting in February, after this event, we have farmer's markets every Sunday, and we begin to plan and grow for our next big agricultural and cultural fair."
Delano-Francis said We Grow Food Inc. was formed especially for Bordeaux farmers who have worked hard to preserve the agricultural aspects of V.I. society.
"Farming in the territory has been neglected for years – so much so that the infrastructure for it has disappeared, and it became economically difficult for a person to be a farmer. Even now, the government doesn't really provide the support we need to sustain this kind of lifestyle," Delano-Francis said.
However, We Grow Food Inc. is working to repair the farming infrastructure, he said. Residents are constantly working together to support the 35-40 individual farms in the area, to educate other Virgin Islanders about the importance of farming in the community, and to make Estate Bordeaux a "green belt" neighborhood to protect against the threat of future development. As a testament to their beliefs, this year's event was themed, "Keep the Lands in the Farmer's Hands–In 2006 We Shall Stand."
The collective has also been working to improve farming methods in the area through the installation of a solar-powered pump which functions as the area's water filter and drip irrigation system.
Derick Hodge, We Grow Food Inc.'s current president, was on hand Sunday to discuss how the system works, as well as to give tours of the nearby farmlands and water dam.
"The dam functions as the water source for farmers in the tennis court area and the pump is hooked up to that," Hodge said. He explained that when the sun is out, the pump drives water out of the dam and into a tank where sediments and dirt from the water settle to the bottom. Once the tank is filled, the pump automatically shuts off, and sends the water – without the sediments and dirt – through an irrigation system set up in the adjacent farmlands.
Hodge said prior to the solar pump – which was purchased through a grant awarded by the V.I. Energy Office – the community was using a gas pump that contaminated the water distributed to farmers with oil. "Since this new system was set up about a year ago, we've really been able to improve the quality of our water," Hodge said. "Also, we've been able to extend the system so we can supply water to farms who weren't able to get water before."
The pump has also helped farmers improve the quality of their produce, said Hodge, pointing to stalls selling fresh lettuce, bananas, thyme, cinnamon leaves, mint, and tomatoes. "We also have another dam which supplies water to another part of Bordeaux, and we're working on cleaning out a third dam so that everyone can benefit from the irrigation system."
While Hodge's tours ran throughout the day, other booth owners were busy doing their own thing – cooking up delicious vegetarian dishes, explaining how certain body oils and scrubs are made, or demonstrating how to do crafts such as knitting and broom making.
"Broom making is really part of a dying culture," Justin Todman, a local broom maker, said after his demonstration on Sunday afternoon. Todman told of the broom's importance in many African countries and cultures, explaining that the household tool can mean anything from a political symbol to the sign of a long and prosperous marriage.
The broom, Todman said during his demonstration, is made from the date palm that grows wild in the Virgin Islands. The palm leaves are cut, stripped, and dried – a four to five day process. The strips are then creatively shaped into different styles of brooms.
Other demonstrations throughout the weekend included beekeeping, tofu making, pepper bottle making and grafting. There were also activities including basket weaving, African pillow making, shell art, and planting projects.
Live entertainment was also an attraction at the fair, and included poetry from local residents as well as traditional African songs performed by Echo People, a local performance art group.
During the honorary ceremonies on Sunday afternoon, awards were given out to Sylvester "Ras Amana" Hamilton for Farmer of the Year, along with Marie David, Celestine Derrick, Miranda Isaac, and Mary M. Moore.
"This really is something we look forward to every year," Delano-Francis said late Sunday afternoon. "It's not just about making money – it's about people coming together as a community and sharing an experience. It's about us preserving our society. And, it's about celebrating the Rastafarian way of life."
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