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Agricultural Fair Offers a Wealth of Free Information

Feb. 19, 2007 — Thousands of residents and visitors went to the 36th annual Agricultural and Food Fair over the President's Day holiday to view livestock exhibits and support artisans and vendors, but many found even more.
The annual fair is famous for its food prepared by dozens of St. Croix best cooks. It's a place where you can find Crucian delicacies unavailable at other times of the year. The petting zoos and livestock exhibits are a favorite of families with children. Vendors provide hard-to-find treasures produced by many of the islands' small and home-business entrepreneurs.
But some of the least talked-about sections of the fair are the informational booths, where one can learn about everything from elderly care giving to regulations for construction in a historic building.
Sandra Bastian Carty manned the V.I. Family Support booth Monday afternoon. She is one of many residents who serve as caregivers to elderly relatives. Carty, who takes care of her 97-year-old uncle, said the groups helps residents cope with the stress of taking care of the sick and elderly, and even provides temporary help if the primary caregiver want to take a break or go on a short vacation. For more information on the Family Caregiver Support program, call 773-2323, ext. 2125 or 2126, on St. Croix, and 774-0930 on St. Thomas.
People lined up at the WAPA booth to get free energy-saving compact-fluorescents bulbs. Participants simply had to verify their WAPA accounts to get on the way to saving energy. There was a lot of energy-saving information available, as well. For example, did you know you can save energy by setting your air conditioning as high as comfortably possible and lowering the thermostat on your water heater?
Additionally, the WAPA representatives stood ready to instruct visitors on how to read their bills and even their meters. You can visit your local WAPA office to get this information and more.
If you own property in the cities of Charlotte Amalie, Christiansted or Frederiksted, did you know there are specific restrictions on additions, exterior painting and even interior renovations? The three areas are part of the historic district, and before any changes can be made permits have to be acquired. Terry Vanterpool, DPNR historic-research specialist, said there are historic districts all over the world, as well as laws to protect them.
"The Virgin Islands are not different," she said from her tent in the middle of the fairgrounds.
One of the projects of the V.I. State Historic Preservation Office is the V.I. Danish Apprenticeship program. The program facilitates student exchange between the Virgin Islands and Denmark for the purpose of preserving the local architectural heritage. Students involved in the program receive instruction on forging iron, decorative paint work, masonry and plaster work and carpentry from Danish and Virgin Islands artisans. For more information on the program or historic-district restrictions, call DPNR at 773-1082 or 774-2362.
Delegate Donna M. Christensen personally manned her booth promoting St. Croix as a national heritage area. That's a region recognized by the U.S. Congress for its unique qualities and resources, a place where a combination of natural, cultural, historic and recreational resources has shaped a cohesive, nationally distinctive landscape. In heritage areas, local communities and leaders cooperate on efforts to preserve the resources important to them.
The designation would bring all the positive aspects of St. Croix together in one comprehensive attraction, Christensen said.
"St. Croix has so much history and natural treasures that need to be brought together," she said. "This is a great opportunity for all the groups who have made St. Croix their home to tell their stories. It's an opportunity to achieve a common sense of purpose and identity."
For more information on St. Croix as a National Heritage Area, call the delegates' office at 778-5900.
These were just some of the more than 20 informational booths found at this years' AgFair. According to Acting Agricultural Commissioner Louis Petersen, attendance over the weekend has been "very good," with opening day drawing the most attendees. The community is very supportive of the event, even requesting that it be held more than once a year, he said. Another frequently expressed concern is the availability of more locally grown produce year round.
"We have the potential to do this," Petersen said. Calling it "a brand new day," he expressed encouragement that the growth of agriculture is supported by Gov. John deJongh and the Legislature. He mentioned that Sens. Neville James, Terrence Nelson and Ronald Russell showed true commitment to agriculture through the Sustainable Agriculture Bill passed in the 26th Legislature. (See "Senators Hope to Make Farming a 'Part of Life.'")
Against staunch opposition, Russell "stepped forward boldly" to identify the Insurance Guarantee Fund as a source of funding for the bill, Petersen said.
Petersen hopes the leadership will keep an eye on land available for agriculture. "We are losing our farming land to other development projects," Petersen said, advocating for "balanced, holistic and sustainable projects that do not exclude agriculture."
"This fair has been one of the biggest and the best," Petersen said.
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