I was born and raised on St. Croix. As a child I loved riding my bike in the rainforest, bathing under the waterfall, dipping in the cold pond water, and eating mangoes, soursup, sugar apple, plum, tamarind, and geneps right off the trees. St. Croix is an agricultural gold mine! Unfortunately, most of the population and government are not interested in harnessing such natural riches. Yes, it will take hard dirty work and lots of money to develop, implement and manage a viable agricultural program, but, we have to start somewhere, not nowhere. St. Croix has to develop a self- sustaining economy. We have to stop wasting money on imported, contaminated, rotten fruits, vegetables and herbs. We have forgotten our cultural ways and converted to American ways: fast, easy and convenient. Fredericksted and Christiansted both have vegetable markets that are being used for selling everything, but rarely, locally grown fruits and vegetables. Yes, there are several vendors selling produce, but not locally grown.
Mr. Peterson is correct, the government needs to protect the land deemed as agricultural and acquire a lot more acreage. Agricultural regulations should be revised to allow farmers to erect masonry buildings to protect their equipment and stock, as Mr. Hodge suggested. All farmers, whether independent, belonging to an association, or incorporated, need to educate themselves with the skills needed to manage a business, not just planting and selling.
The government needs to invest money in local projects that will boost the economy of St. Croix and help lower the cost of living, instead of wasting money on advertising St. Croix as a "tourist paradise." Tourism has not been a viable investment since the Fountain Valley incident back in the 70's. St. Croix's economy has yet to recover. Add to injury the decision of the cruise ship industry to cancel St. Croix as a port of visit because of the government's inability to provide adequate police protection for tourists. The amount of money needed to invest in an infrastructure that will sustain tourism is millions more than investing in agriculture.
St. Croix may not have the capacity to support a viable export resource, but it will be in every resident's best interest to fight for and support a self-sustaining agricultural economy.
St. Croix/Tampa, Fla.
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