Home News Local news Bordeaux Fair Offers a Sensory Treat, Promotes Agricultural Independence

Bordeaux Fair Offers a Sensory Treat, Promotes Agricultural Independence

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Jan. 20, 2007 — A trek up the hill to the Bordeaux tennis courts on Saturday brought the sounds of loud reggae music, the smells of sizzling vegetarian dishes and the sight of long lines of cars as hundreds of residents turned out for the 10th Annual Bordeaux Farmers Rastafari Agricultural and Cultural Food Fair.
The event, which continues to grow each year, is hosted by the Bordeaux farmers' collective We Grow Food and runs until 11 p.m. Sunday.
This year's fair is the biggest one yet, with at least 40 vendors coming from throughout the territory to sell their wares, according to We Grow Food President Derrick Hodge. Booths set up throughout the courts were ablaze with colors, giving residents a chance to purchase everything from fresh produce to designer handbags.
Also featured Saturday were local drinks, crafts and medicines, along with live music and presentations from youth groups and local artists. Sens. Terrence "Positive" Nelson and James Weber III were on hand to open the festivities, talking to attendees about the future of agriculture in the territory.
For the past two years, Nelson headed the Senate's Committee on Labor and Agriculture. This year, Weber takes up the position, chairing the newly formed Committee on Economic Development and Agriculture, which oversees a number of issues ranging from the cultivation of a local marine industry to setting policies for tourism, transportation and energy, among other things.
Keeping the mood light, Weber made the crowd laugh by admitting that he had never before tasted many of the delicious treats offered at the fair — including the "purple" guavaberry bread. "I've never seen or had purple bread in my life," he said, adding that he was excited by the opportunity to try foods that he had previously seen Nelson eating during Senate meetings.
On a more serious note, Weber said it was encouraging to witness the handiwork of the Bordeaux farmers, who packed their stalls with bright green lettuce, fresh herbs and bulging watermelons.
"Next week I'm going to Washington for an agricultural summit," he said. "And after meeting with the Bordeaux farmers and other local representatives, I think I'm going there armed with enough information. And the first thing I'm going to do when I get back is address the state of agriculture in the territory."
A "tremendous amount of things" can be done to jumpstart the local agriculture industry, Weber said: "We need to subsidize a portion of our food and not depend solely on imports. Because growing our own food is really going to help us during the big disasters, when we have hurricanes as big as Katrina or Marilyn."
Nelson had a similar message for residents, saying that "we as a community have to fortify ourselves by being able to sustain ourselves."
"I see a lot of people here today looking for natural foods, natural drinks — things you won't see in a doctor's office," he said. "And that's what we need to offer to our people; that's what we need to promote. Food is a necessity, and we have to keep it healthy."
Nelson also stressed that the territory is not taking advantage of its biggest cash crop — the cannabis plant. "We really have to look at this plant and the economic opportunities it provides, and take advantage of it," he said. "We have to come alive on that notion, and I'm urging residents to push on us elected representatives so we can push it in Congress."
We Grow Food will push senators on a number of other issues, including expanding the organization, Hodge said later. "One of the biggest things we want to do is get permanent ownership of the tennis courts, so we can have regular Sunday markets — at least once a week, instead of once every month," he said.
The group has already talked to representatives from the joint owners of the property: the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation, Hodge said. Soon they plan to bring the subject up with members of the new administration.
The group also plans to sit down with Weber on Monday, discussing such topics as the creation of educational-outreach initiatives, which teach community members about the advantages of farming. "A lot of people aren't aware of the benefits of agriculture," Hodge said. "They think it's just a bunch of hard work, that it's not profitable. But that's not true."
Another topic will be introducing more energy-saving procedures throughout the community, he said: "There are many farms around here that already have solar power systems. And we have to spread that awareness. The systems may be expensive, but they really pay off in the long run. Around here, all we need is the power of the sun, and we're able to grow fresh vegetables and other produce. It allows us to eat healthy, live healthy and keep healthy."
Fair activities continue on Sunday, beginning at 7 a.m. and ending at 11 p.m. Events are funded in part by the V.I. Council on the Arts, with other contributions provided by the V.I. departments of Tourism and Agriculture and FirstBank VI.
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