Products made from locally grown fruits, vegetables and bees were showcased Saturday at the second Value Added Vendorama, sponsored by the V.I. Department of Agriculture at the department’s marketing building on St. Croix.
A similar event was held a week earlier at Emancipation Garden on St. Thomas.
“The intent is to encourage and promote value-added products. Many times, we have fruits in abundance and are not able to use them all, so the value-added process extends the shelf live in stews, jams and drinks, etc.” said Errol Chichester, Agriculture Department deputy commissioner and beekeeper.
Fifteen vendors displayed and sold their wares – many of them the same people who sell fruits and vegetables at the farmers’ markets every weekend. However, there were no fresh mangoes, peppers, okra or avocados available. Instead shoppers sampled and bought pickled and preserved fruits and vegetables, jams and jellies and sweets such as coconut ginger candy, tamarind stew, honey wine, avocado cupcakes and frozen fruit smoothies.
Healthy products included “Nonicaine,” made from noni fruit and essential oils. Lay Sister Mary Joan said the liquid is an anti-inflammatory that helps with external pain. Tropical AyAy’s Grizzel Davila said her salves and lotions made with comfrey would treat scars, broken bones and arthritis. Comfry, a herb, contains vitamins B 12, A and C as well as iron, phosphorus, magnesium, selenium, sulfur and potassium, according to Davila. She also featured starfruit, sorrel and plum wines.
Along with fresh fruit smoothies, shoppers could cool off with chilled baobab juice and coconut water. There were bottles and gift packs of wines and honey mead by Wanda Wright and Davila.
Farmer Grantley Samuel of GLG Plants and Produce and his wife Laurie Samuel gave samples and sold pickled mangoes, stewed gooseberries and tamarind, Vienna cake, mango cake, fruit tarts, individual pineapple upside down cakes and avocado cupcakes with green frosting. Samuel’s speciality was caramelized coconut candy with sugar cane, ginger, spices and sugar.
“We’re trying to showcase different things the Virgin Islands has to offer and the potential of the products of the island,” he said.
Three new vendors this year brought innovative products to the market. Nick Hitesman’s passion fruit, mango and white coconut wines were light, not too sweet, and popular with shoppers. He also had coconut and spiced rum.
Bethany Bradford premiered homemade goat cheese in three flavors – plain, peppered and herbed. She spread samples of the mildly tangy cheese on crackers for a flavorful, buttery bite.
Tashima Tuitt of Ras Sonrise and Daughter Farm is a good example of making the most of her family’s produce. She has been making the pickles, jams and jellies for years. She has added flavored vinegars, bottled lime juice, fruit leather snacks, marinara sauce with herbs and dried tomatoes, serving sized packages of seasoned plantain chips and lemon grass tea in individual bags.
Beekeepers also know about packaging their products. Along with Chichester, Roniel Allenbert and Toni Downs displayed bottled honey with and without honey combs, soaps and candles for sale.
The V.I. Economic Development Authority also sponsored the market. Pablo Vega and Monique Samuel offered advice on loans and finances for the farmer/entrepreneurs.
Audrey Browne, outreach coordinator for the VIDOA, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture also sponsored the market with grants for farmers. The goal of the event was to make people aware that farmers have more than fresh produce for sale.
“We want people to see they can make a quality lifestyle from farming. We want to let the world know what we have here,” Browne said.