Throughout the backyard garden competition, participants shared photos on Facebook on their plots and pants. (File photo: FACEBOOK)

Type “#VIgardentoplate” in your Facebook search bar, and you can sift through photographs of Virgin Islands residents making curry from fresh produce and smiling while holding up bushels of green spinach leaves.

These photos were all posted by participants in the Department of Agriculture’s backyard gardening competition, a friendly contest meant to inspire more residents to grow their own food. The contest began in April, though judges began traveling across the territory to inspect the competitor’s plots and wares in August.

On Friday, six months after the contest’s start, the judges announced their picks as part of the territory’s observance of World Food Day.

Winners Dawn and Ortley George took the title of best backyard garden, while the top prize for best container garden went to Novy Manzano, according to a Friday press release from government.

Additionally, Delonte Hillhouse was awarded for best youth garden, while best garden photo went to Marvin Joseph.

Further prizes were awarded to Anjanique Cheltenham; Michael Hirst; Levansky Favila de Venecia; Keturah London; and Jhakhoy Martin.

Speaking to the Beacon in July, Deputy Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley said the launch of the programme coincided with a surging interest in farming and gardening during the pandemic.

Mr. Venecia noticed the same spike, he said at the time.

With residents confined to their homes, many for the first time planted fruits and vegetables as a way to escape the monotony of lockdown and to ensure they won’t ever be stranded without food, Mr. Venecia said.

Even once the pandemic subsides, Dr. Wheatley hopes that residents will continue to foster this newfound interest in at-home agriculture, and he plans to make the backyard competition a yearly event, he said.

“Today, as we celebrate World Food Day, I encourage our community to continue cultivating home gardens for household health and food security,” he added.