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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, April 12, 2024
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UVI Celebrates the Opening of a Second Agriculture Business Center on St. Thomas

Community members gather for the opening of the Agriculture Business Center at UVI on St. Thomas. (Source photo by Adisha Penn)

The University of the Virgin Islands celebrated on Thursday as they officially opened the Virgin Islands Agriculture Business Center on St. Thomas. The center serves to provide local farmers and fishers with small business education and resources, assisting them with business development in their respective industries.

The center is housed at the university’s 13D Research and Strategy Innovation Center. The Innovation Center, which opened last April, is located at the former West Bay Supermarket. On St. Croix, the university opened its first Agriculture Business Center in December. Plans for a St. John opening are in the works.

The implementation of the Agriculture Business Center stems from the 2021 Agricultural Plan goal directed by Act 8404, which aims to increase agricultural productivity locally to make food security and sovereignty a reality for those living in the Virgin Islands.

UVI President David Hall shares his remarks. (Source photo by Adisha Penn)

“This is extremely special and meaningful,” said David Hall, president of the University of the Virgin Islands, to an audience of about 75 persons. He added that within the next month, an application process will be shared for farmers and fishers to apply to receive portions of the $500,000 investment appropriated to the center for client use and that “a series of loans” and “matching funds for grants” will be available as well.

The university president also mentioned that the Education Department will soon launch a pilot program for agriculture throughout the territory and that they are currently looking for a sustainability director for the program.

John Morosco, state director for the Small Business Development Center of the Virgin Islands; Kendra Harris, dean of the school of business for UVI; Usman Adamu, dean and director of agriculture programs for UVI; Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory, and Riise Richards, the Agriculture Department’s assistant commissioner, each gave remarks to the audience as well. Almost all acknowledged a heightened sense of a need for agricultural reform.

John Morosco, state director for the Small Business Development Center of the Virgin Islands, gives his remarks. (Source photo by Adisha Penn)

“People need to have access to fresh healthy crops and meats to include fish,” said Richards. She mentioned that the benefit of the centers will be to collect data, establish benchmarks, and build a sustainable agricultural economy.

Frett-Gregory spoke eagerly about the implementation of the agriculture center.

“I did not campaign for agriculture but I understand the importance of agriculture,” she said. “We need to be mindful of the importance of food security.”

Sen. Donna Frett-Gregory gives her remarks. (Source photo by Adisha Penn)

The senator added that “St. Croix should be the agricultural mecca of the U.S. Virgin Islands,” but she expressed concern that less than half the crowd for the opening of the agriculture center on St. Thomas appeared at the opening of the agriculture center on St. Croix.

“If we can push this level of interest [on St. Croix], we can change the language,” said Frett-Gregory.

The speakers acknowledged the hard work and dedication provided by many members of the community to push for the opening of the agriculture centers. Kudos were given to Agriculture Commissioner Louis Petersen, the V.I. APEX Accelerator, and, of course, the farmers and fishers in the territory.

Dean Usman Adamu shared with the audience that oftentimes, people think about the production side when they hear the term agriculture, but the business side is often forgotten.

Agriculture programs Dean and Director Usman Adamu gives his remarks. (Source photo by Adisha Penn)

“Agriculture touches every aspect of our lives,” said Adamu. “Anybody who doesn’t think that agriculture is important, that person needs to come to the Virgin Islands and be with the leaders and really understand the importance of agriculture,” said Adamu.

Hall closed his remarks, informing the audience that he will be stepping down as president of the university in July. However, he wants one of his last acts as co-chair of the local Food and Farm Council to be present in front of the legislative Finance Committee and say, “Look at how much we’ve done and look at how much we need to keep going.” Of the agriculture centers, he urges community members to “please use it.”

UVI President David Hall speaks with a community member at the St. Thomas Agriculture Business Center opening. (Source photo by Adisha Penn)

The Agriculture Business Center will provide its clients with one-on-one consulting, business education training, and technical assistance at no charge. Farmers and fishers can receive assistance with obtaining a business license, creating business plans, securing financing, accounting and bookkeeping, and learning practices for effective business operation and expansion.

For more information, email myviabc@uvi.edu or go to www.myviabc.org.

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