April 20, 2008 — Fresh local produce and a taste of adventure await those venturing out to Creque Farm on a Sunday afternoon, preferably in a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Go north of Frederiksted along the coast and turn right on Creque Road. It is just over three miles to the farm turn-off. But it will take 20 minutes to wind your way into the shady forest through passes lined with craggy, mossy rock faces, past Creque Dam and along the stream that feeds it, slowly upward.
The temperature drops a little as you get higher up and deeper into the forest, providing relief on the hottest days. A mile and one-half past Camp Mt. Victory, you'll see a couple of hand-painted signs on the left: "Creque Farm" and "Tomatoes" with an arrow.
The pavement ends and road gets rough and narrow. Verdant hills and valleys, pastures and forest, with occasional distant glimpses of the ocean far below grace the view. After cresting one last hill, the market comes into view.
The Sunday market began just a few weeks ago, but has already become a big outlet for the farm's produce and a crowd-gathering affair.
"We are going to keep doing it all summer, said Ben Jones, executive director and founding partner at the farm. "We are inviting other farmers to come join us up here and sell their produce on Sundays too."
The Creque Farm is the working name of the V.I. Sustainable Farming Institute. It is an educational organization emphasizing working with the environment and bringing the community together, encouraging personal growth, self-awareness and community development, using healthy agriculture and a sustainable farm design as part of the educational experience.
This past Sunday a diverse crowd came out: tourists, St. Croix residents, snowbirds, families with children and infants, couples on an outing.
Pounds and pounds of just-picked tomatoes filled boxes out front. Sheet pans of sliced tomatoes were up on the roof, drying in the blazing sun.
A young lady, not part of the farm, was selling jewelry at a table. People milled through the produce piled on tables in the rustic, open-air building of wood and stone. Seeing friends by chance who had the same notion for a Sunday drive, folks sat and chatted at huge slab mahogany tables on the pavilion's shaded balcony while jazz and alternative rock played in the background.
Down below, fat hens scratched and clucked. Old dogs wandered about. Trails led off into the woods to the many garden plots and farmers housing.
Bearded guys with blond dreadlocks and bandannas suggested a certain earthily alternative style wherein a hackysack or Frisbee might appear.
The friendly interns and staff of the farm certainly know their stuff. Farm Produce Manager Amy Talarico rattled off the breeds of produce and their different qualities. Right now there are Sungold cherry tomatoes; a yellow, super-sweet, very flavorful variety; and Bush Early Bird slicing tomatoes, she explained. There are Kurume, Fairy Tale, Rosa Bianca and the more common Dusky eggplant varietals; Purple, Thai and Italian Genovese basil, along with mint and sage. Tatsoi, a Chinese green not unlike bok choy, but a bit more like mustard or spinach, is in abundance. Peppers and cucumbers abound.
Soon, mango, pineapple and passion fruit will be coming in, Jones said.
The farmer's market is open Sundays from 1 to 5 p.m. You can also get their produce at the La Reine Farmer's Market Saturday mornings. Go to www.visfi.org for more information.
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