The theme of Agrifest 2015 “Agriculture: The Heart of it All.” And at the heart of it are people like Livestock Farmer of the Year James “Jimmy” Nelthropp and Crop Farmer of the Year Samuel Tyson.
The two were honored along with others involved in agriculture and food at the opening ceremony of the Fair Saturday.
Nelthropp raises beef and dairy cattle, goats and sheep. Sue Lakos, director of livestock exhibits, said when Nelthropp recently upgraded his pastures, the Food and Drug Administration used his farm as a good example.
Nelthropp said farming was a great deal of work with great rewards. He said Henry Nelthropp, his father, gave him a wealth of knowledge.
“He taught me that St. Croix is the breadbasket of the Caribbean,” Nelthropp said as he was handed a huge trophy.
Samuel Tyson and his partner, Violet Drew, started a farming partnership in 200, leasing land from the Agriculture Department and growing quality fresh produce.
Director of crop exhibits Errol Chichester said Taylor and Drew have led the way in processing and packaging and extending the shelf life of products and creating market added-value. They preserve coconut oil, juice, jams, jelly, chutney, relish, hot sauces, stews, fruit wines, and plantain. The products are for sale at Ra’s Sonrise & Daughter Stand Market.
Tyson said after graduating from St. Croix Central High School he opened a restaurant, but his conscience bothered him about the chemicals used in food production. So he took up farming and natural production of food. He said he takes production from the ground up naturally.
“The earth is a living thing,” Tyson said. “We form a relationship with the earth and it tells us what to do. I give plants love and they give me back the same thing.”
Farmers have to form good working relationships to be progressive, he added.
The Agriculture and Food Fair board named the fair grounds for Clinton George.
Clarice Clark, Fair Committee coordinator of promotions, said George had the vision to make the production of tropical fruit and the fair viable industries. George, who has a large mango orchard, initiated the successful summer agriculture event Mango Melee. He has worked in the UVI Cooperative Extension Services and served on the Fair board of directors, among other agriculture related programs.
The Agrifest board also honored Catherine Joseph-Cornelius by naming the food pavilion after her. Joseph-Cornelius has been a prominent food vendor at the fair for more than 20 years. She has worked as a cook at local restaurants and been active in the hospitality industry providing friendly service. Her specialties are saltfish and ducana, pates, and passion fruit juice.
“I was a little surprised that they chose me this year,” Joseph-Cornelius said before the ceremony started. “I really enjoy being at the fair and cooking for the people here. I just love to cook.”
The Livestock Pavilion was named the Triple D Farm Pavilion honoring Vincent Doward and his family.
Doward and his wife, Maria, have been farming 20 acres in Middle Works for more than 20 years. They raise dorper sheep and locally sourced Boer-cross goats. He said there are three generations working the farm including his three sons and grandchildren.
Sejah Farm had the honor of having the Farmers’ Market named for them. They also won Grand Champion Farmers Market for their fantastic display of quality fruits and vegetables.
Sejah Farm is owned and operated by Dale and Yvette Browne. The farm was established in 1998. The couple grows all sorts of produce and operate a farm stand.
If the heart doesn’t function there could be disaster, Yvette Browne said. All units in the Virgin Islands need to come together in one accord and they can’t stay stagnant.
“I want to see that at least 50 percent of our food doesn’t come so far, that by the time it’s ready to eat it’s garbage,” she said.
Sarah Dahl-Smith, director of youth activities, honored the next generation of farmers giving the Educational Exhibit Sweepstakes award to the Arthur A. Richards Junior High Future Farmers of America members. She said the students did an amazing job showing every aspect of agriculture in the heart of agriculture.
David Hall, president of the University of the Virgin Islands, said Agrifest is hailed as the largest in the Caribbean, but he would have to argue that it is both the largest and the best.
“Agriculture is at the heart of the university, because the needs of the people are at the heart of the university,” Hall said. “We will reach a day when everything we eat is produced here in the Virgin Islands. I believe that goal is attainable. I hope all will join hands and make food sustainability a reality in our lifetime.”
Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp said his administration pledged support to the farmers not in words but deeds.
He said they were beginning to manage the process to identify crops targeted for the school lunch program.
“We have the opportunity on the federal level to increase the school lunch program,” Mapp said. He said many hundreds of acres of Department of Agriculture land remain dormant and he wants to get it back in the farm bank.
“We want to advance farming to levels not seen since the 1960s,” Mapp said. He added he wants to see the Future Farmers of America back in the schools and fully supported.
Delegate Stacey Plaskett and Luther Renee, Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture assistant commissioner and vice president of fair operations, gave remarks. Lt. Gov. Osbert Potter, Sen. Neville James, and Beverly Nicholson-Doty, commissioner of the Department of Tourism, also spoke to the crowd gathered under a huge tent by the pavilions.
A ribbon cutting ceremony with dignitaries took place following the awards, at the Sejah Farm Farmer’s Market.
The V.I Department of Agriculture, UVI Cooperative Extension Services and the V.I. Department of Tourism sponsor the fair.