Local-Grown Food Plan Town Halls Coming Up

Progress reports on locally-grown food initiatives come to three islands in late April, early May. (Source photo illustration)
Progress reports on locally-grown food initiatives come to three islands in late April, early May. (Source photo illustration)

Officials plan to update Virgin Islanders later this month on the ambitious agriculture agenda aiming to upend the territory’s overwhelming reliance on outside food sources.

The three town-hall style events — one on St. Thomas, one on St. John, and one on St. Croix — will feature presentations from Local Food and Farm Council representatives about island-specific issues in implementing the territorial Agricultural Plan for farmers and fishers, as well as next steps, organizers said.

The 2021-implemented plan calls for ramping up local agricultural production to increase Virgin Islands food security and sovereignty. A 2021 United Nations study found 97 percent of food in the territory was imported, making Virgin Islanders vulnerable to supply chain issues and price fluctuations.

“The events will highlight progress, including the availability of grant money, launch of agriculture business centers on each island, hiring of an interim Local Food and Farm coordinator, and more, as well as upcoming endeavors,” organizers said.

The hybrid, in-person and video conference events start April 22 in St. Thomas at the University of the Virgin Islands’ LaVerne E. Ragster Administration & Conference Center; then at the Legislature of the Virgin Islands’ annex in St. John April 23; then they conclude May 1 on St. Croixat the University of the Virgin Islands’ Great Hall. They are all scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on those dates.

For virtual attendance, log on to https://uvi-edu.zoom.us/j/3850929463?omn=99085015807 using the meeting ID 385 092 9463.

Organizers asked that people planning to attend in person make a reservation at 340-693-1003 or vilocalfoodandfarmcouncil@doa.vi.gov.

Organizers from UVI, the Education Department, the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, and others said they hoped farmers, fishers, and anyone interested in food security would attend the event titled “Let’s Grow! The Implementation of the Virgin Islands Agricultural Plan for Farmers and Fishers.”

The 2021 plan, which draws on previous plans going back to 1999, includes the eight mandates of the Territorial Agricultural Plan:

  • comprehensive regulations for local farming industries;
  • building business models for profitable and sustainable community-based local food and farming businesses;
  • creating a Local Food & Farm coordinator position;
  • creating a Local Food and Farm fund from voluntary sources to support initiatives and agriculture-related activities;
  • establishing a local Food and Farm advisory committee;
  • creation of a symbol indicating “local food;”
  • developing education and training programs, and collection data; and
  • creating benchmarks, and assessing progress on the building of food and farm economy.

Some high-priority goal projects include devising a comprehensive irrigation system and water supply, enhancing infrastructure, strategic increases in personnel at the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture, support for an orchard development initiative, and enhancing grant writing at the Department of Agriculture.