Senator Gittens Salutes Success of Farmers, This Year’s Agriculture Fair
FREDERIKSTED — Senate President Kenneth Gittens said that he is encouraged about the state of the territory’s farming industry.
Speaking at the 48th Annual Agricultural and Food Fair on Saturday, he noted that the annual event is the dynamic result of cooperation, commitment and ingenuity.
The fairgrounds, named posthumously in honor of former Agriculture Department employee Audrey Browne, were decimated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria delaying and downsizing last year’s activities.
“I feel privileged to be here and want to say congratulations to the Department of Agriculture and its partners for coming together to put on this stellar event,” Gittens said. “We all remember where we were this time last year and the dismal outlook we had for the industry, but we have come a long way with God’s help and our resiliency as a people.”
This year’s theme, “V.I. Agriculture: Still Growing in 2019” is one that Gittens said is indicative of our ongoing state of recovery and rebuilding. He said our farming community and our agriculture industry continue to rebound.
Gittens said he was proud to see the various farmers selling hundreds of pounds of fresh produce, seasoning and other value-added products and that he sees the growth and potential of agriculture in the Virgin Islands.
“We can never forget that St. Croix was once the bread basket of the region with record amounts of crops grown and exported,” he said. “We can return to those days because our industry is, indeed, still growing.”
Gittens said residents must make personal commitments to invest in agriculture by supporting local farmers or by developing gardens and community farms of their own.
“We must also reinvest in our youth, our in-school farming programs and our agriculture education curriculum,” he said. “I personally visited some of the local school farming projects prior to the hurricanes and believe that our industry will truly blossom if we continue to develop these programs and feed the interest of our children to grow their own foods and pursue careers in the agriculture industry.”
Gittens congratulated Henry Schuster of Echo Valley Farms for being named the Livestock Farmer of the Year and Charles Burton for being named Crop Farmer of the Year.
He commended the dedication that the farmers displayed as they braved the heat to tend to their crops and animals during the fair and throughout the year. The Senate President also thanked the many volunteers and public employees that made the 2019 fair possible.
The fair took place February 16 to 18 in Estate Lower Love on St. Croix.