Home News Local news Annual Agricultural Fair Tending Toward Healthy Food

Annual Agricultural Fair Tending Toward Healthy Food


Nov. 18, 2006 — Eddine James served her first glass of carrot juice with a big smile.
"It's so good," she said.
And it was very good — too good, if fact, for the $2 price tag, someone remarked. "See," Anna Francis said, "Ediene was right. She said we should charge more, too. It's a lot of work."
James looked pleased, though neither Francis, leader of the Environmental Rangers, nor James, an 8th grade ranger from Addelita Cancryn Junior High School, moved to change the price.
"This is our first time serving food," Francis said. "Last year we had plants only, and we did very well." Osayande Francis, 7, stood looking over his mother's booth, offering suggestions. " You should have some more carrot juice," he said.
Saturday was the first day of the St. Thomas-St. John Agriculture and Food Fair, now in its 24th year. As folks strolled into the Reichhold Center for the Arts grounds under flawless blue skies and a bright sun, much was the same, some things were new and some things were missing. The traditional Shetland pony carted wide-eyed youngsters around the grounds. In place were pies, cakes, fresh eggs, produce, pates and plants. The aisles were filled with jams, jellies, stewed pork, maubi and other local drinks, sweetbreads, tarts and pumpkins. DJ Franklin Benjamin and the Encore Band livened things up.
Each year the emphasis seems to shift more toward healthy eating. Under the motto, "Eat Well, Live Well," one booth served macaroni and soy cheese. Across the way, those more interested in old pleasures gravitated toward the staple macaroni and cheese, potato stuffing and stewed chicken.
The Environmental Rangers served up a healthy menu, including baked broccoli and ginger barbeque tofu, and drinks including tamarind and ginger teas and St. John's Wort.
Francis instructed one of the rangers to take an onlooker up to their plant display to see the St. John's Wort for herself. Albion Francis was happy to oblige. "It's this plant," he said, showing a sort of spindly tall plant with lots of leaves. "You steep this like tea," he said, " and that's where you get the drink."
Francis, Ranger board member and horticulturist, said, "I live on St. Croix now, but I come to St. Thomas for the fair." He showed an impressive display — not only of plants, but also of different ways to care for the planet.
Up the hill from the Ranger display were plants: bougainvillea, lime trees, lemon trees, palms, sugar apple and banana trees, poinsettias and delicate orchids.
Toward the bottom of the hill stood the white tents housing the displays of the UVI cooperative extension service, which hosts the event. What you couldn't learn about growing and caring for plants in the Virgin Islands from the extension service probably isn't worth learning.
Louis Petersen, UVI's Cooperative Extension Service director, patiently answered myriad questions — everything from how one woman could find a certain artist to supply material for clothing she was making, to how to keep aphids off tomato plants.
Petersen is a tall, relaxed-looking man with an easy smile. He took all the questions in stride. Agriculture is his passion, and he appears happy to share his knowledge. This year has something new, he pointed out. "We have asked people to bring samples of their plants they're having insect problems with," he said, "and to bring them in a ziplock bag."
He picked up a mid-sized bag of hibiscus leaves. "This plant was suffering from something very common," he said, "The pink hibiscus mini-bug. We have an insecticide which is safe we recommend for it."
A first this year was Richard Pluke, showing people how to use the World Wide Web to get online insect information. "One of the best sites for general information," he said, "is "The Wonderful World of Insects."
Pulke serves as senior agronomist-entomologist with an international company, Fintrac, which has located on St. Thomas. It is an Economic Development Commission beneficiary and performs its community-service obligation in a unique way.
Fintrac sponsored the student essay-writing competition this year. The first-place winner was Randall Williams, an eleventh grader at Charlotte Amalie High School. Second place went to Lauren Liburd, also a CAHS junior.
"We are an agribusiness-consulting firm," Pulke said. "We provide technical assistance to small farmers. Since we moved here, we've begun a territory-wide agriculture program. Right now, I am working with four farmers."
One of those farmers is Charles Leonard of Bordeaux Farms. Leonard traditionally reaps prizes for his produce and honey at the fair. "Charlie is great to work with," Pulke said. "He used to be a mechanic, so he brings the practical side of things."
Leonard expresses enthusiasm about their relationship. "Richard is helping me with an irrigation-drip system," he said. "We are growing about 400 peppers in tiers three feet wide and 30 feet long, in six banks. Around the perimeters, we're growing sorghum grass to keep the bugs out."
His goal is to have the peppers ready to sell at the Bordeaux Farmers Annual Fair in January, Leonard said. In the meantime, he displayed honey from his bees, fresh eggs, all sorts of produce and fragrant rosemary.
The V.I. Energy Office attracted a crowd, including lots of youngsters. "They can't get over the solar panels actually lighting these lights," said Don Buchanan, running the display. It covers various aspects of the benefits of solar energy, along with information on its rebate program.
Seated in front of the display is what Buchanan calls a "Solar Surfer" — a metal fellow poised on a surfboard. When you touch the solar panel it sits on, it moves. "Now the kids really love this," Buchanan said.
And what would the fair be without animals, or birds? Two brownish emus paced back and forth in their cages, seemingly daring anyone to pass them by. The awkward-looking birds appeared to be serving some sort of guard duty. A small child pulled his mother's hand. "What are they? They're sure funny-looking," he said.
Beyond the emus lurked the turkeys, ducks, rabbits, a couple of cows and one very unhappy-looking black bull. Venturing further, three pigs sprawled out for all to see. They were very pink and very obese, even for pigs.
Opening ceremonies were scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, with the Ivanna Eudora Kean High School Jr. ROTC presenting the colors, local dignitaries speaking and the Bertha C. Boschulte Burning Blazers providing the music.
The fair will continue from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children. Judging will take place Sunday for the competitions on everything from the biggest pumpkin to the best guava tart.
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