Farmer Gregory Smith was among about 60 vendors at the Agriculture Exhibition and Market held over the weekend at Paraquita Bay. (Photo: Rushton Skinner)

Piled high on trestle tables, cucumbers, peppers, sugarcane and other brightly coloured produce contrasted with the white tents that provided shade for vendors at the 2024 Agriculture Exhibition and Market held over the weekend in Paraquita Bay.

The event drew about 60 vendors, according to Junior Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Dr. Karl Dawson.

On Saturday, the activities started to pick up as the morning’s rain subsided in time for an opening ceremony around noon. Heavy wind continued into the afternoon, but by 3 p.m. the field to the west of H. Lavity Stoutt Community College was populated with attendees browsing produce and checking out farm animals in nearby pens.

Sunday was quieter, with fewer visitors and vendors, but the sun shone and the wind dropped.

Surrounded by local goods under one tent were farmers Marreth and Gregory Smith, who said government should encourage more youths to get involved in agriculture.

“I always encourage the youngsters to plant something, because when you plant a seed and you see sprouts, it makes you feel good,” Mr. Smith said between bites of sugar cane. “You see it come up, bearing a vegetable or something. It sort of encourages you, because it brings you right back to the mother nature.”

He added, “That’s why when they say agriculture, [it] means you’re agreeing with the culture.”

Status of farmers

The day before the market started, Dr. Dawson joined Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley in a Friday press conference to provide updates about the exhibition and other ongoing events.

“This year’s Agriculture and Fisheries Month activities are aimed at connecting producers with consumers, developing the sector, and encouraging our youth,” Dr. Dawson said. “Exhibitions have been held on Anegada and Virgin Gorda, and both communities were pleased with those events.”

After the Tortola exhibition, the junior minister said, the fourth and final market will be on Jost Van Dyke on Saturday.

“Many farmers have been giving their best efforts despite trying circumstances,” Dr. Dawson said. “This is a sector that we are proud of and wish to showcase during this time.”

The theme for this Agriculture and Fisheries Month is “Sow the Seeds of Sustainability: Youth Fueling Food Security.”

Locally grown produce, made-to-order juice, and jewellery were among the products for sale at the event in Paraquita Bay. (Photo: Rushton Skinner)

Earlier last week at Elmore Stoutt High School, the government also hosted a workshop on regenerative agriculture.

The main presentation was led by Virgin Islands agroecologist and farmer Nea Talbot, but other contributing farmers included the Smiths, Johanna Marrugo of Rasta Livity Farms on Virgin Gorda, Aragorn DickRead of Good Moon Farm, and Dr. Latisha Martin of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries.

“Various suggestions emerged from the breakout groups, which followed [Ms. Talbot’s] presentation,” Dr. Dawson said, adding, “All agreed that more sessions like those are needed for the learning and networking benefits that were produced.”

Mr. Dick-Read told the Beacon that VI agriculture has long been struggling, but the discussion between government and agriculture representatives was a step in the right direction.

“The call [for help] was heard by many farmers that did attend,” Mr. Dick-Read said. “Maybe there were 30 people in the room, and they weren’t all farmers. … Basically, the minister needs help. He’s under a lot of pressure from all sides to come up with a kind of an agricultural solution.”

Other events

Activities continued this week.

Yesterday afternoon, schools from Jamaica, Guyana and the United States VI were scheduled to remotely present their agricultural offerings to demonstrate how other countries educate their youth on the farming industry, according to the junior minister.

“Earlier on this same day, I will be touring several school gardens across the territory,” Dr. Dawson said Friday. “Green VI has been engaged in a project to reintroduce or revitalise school gardens. The efforts are literally starting to bear fruit, but more importantly we are introducing more young persons to farming.”


Fishing tourney, farm tours

Other events are scheduled in the coming days as well.

The Wahoo Mania Fishing Tournament will be held March 30 out of Virgin Gorda, and farm tours will take place on Tortola on the same day.

“Farm tours will give members of the public an opportunity to visit farms in the territory and see how local food is produced and makes its way to the marketplace,” Dr. Dawson said. “It promises to be an interesting learning opportunity.

Students from the Elmore Stout High School participated in the farm tours on Virgin Gorda and were impressed with what they saw.”