Farm Fresh on St. Croix

September 8, 2011

Food

LaReine Farmers Market

produce on sale at the La Reine Farmers Market

Something else I love about St. Croix: local and sustainable farming is alive and well.

Farming on St Croix comes in a wide range of shapes and sizes: from backyard gardeners to greenhouse hydroponics. My favourite place to meet farmers and buy local produce on the island is at the weekly Saturday morning market at La Reine, in the northwestern corner of the intersection between Highways 75 and 70. This is the island’s traditional market and it’s not changed much over the years. Most weeks you’ll find excellent overall variety and meet farmers who have been working the soil in St. Croix for donkey years. If you don’t need fresh vegetables, look for pastries, jams and jellies available from some vendors and fishermen set up on the outskirts and sell locally caught lobster, conch, snapper, tuna and more. This is a great place to soak up St. Croix’s local culture, and to find the fixings for dinner, too.

purple sugar apple

I bought this sweet purple sugar apple from a roadside vendor.

There are other, newer, farms too. ARTfarm is an organic farm located along the South Shore Road which operates a farm stand on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Sejah Farm of the Virgin Islands produces organic fruits, vegetables and meats (goat, lamb and chicken) and sell 6 days a week from their farm on Casper Holstein Drive, north of the Old Bethlehem Sugar Factory. Tropics Hydroponics grows lettuce and tomatoes without soil; You’ll find owner Brian McCulough on his farm west of Christiansted most mornings and at the LaReine market on Saturdays. And driving around St. Croix you are bound to see other farmers set up here and there, especially along the Queen Mary Highway. Pull over and see what you discover.

VISFI bananas

Bananas ripen on the porch at the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute on St. Croix.

On a recent trip to the island I visited another St. Croix farm: the Virgin Islands Farm Institute. The 200 acre property tucked away on Creque Dam Road, in the rainforest, is part organic farm, part training institute, and part eco-retreat. You can buy their produce at weekly farmer’s markets in Christiansted and Frederiksted but enthusiasts will want to schedule a tour. Over about two hours you will see the farm’s fruit and vegetable cultivation, meet farm staff, and learn about the medicinal and practical uses of dozens of tropical trees and plants. You’ll also see the farm’s bamboo grove, community house and farm animals including chickens, rabbits, goats and sheep as well as an authentic replica of a Taino Indian bohio.

As I walked the property with my guide, Shelly, we sampled all sorts of plants and trees. Pulling leaves off trees and bushes, Shelly plied me with the goodness of the earth. Of particular note were the moringa leaves, small bits of green with a pleasant spicy taste which Shelly and her partner Nate Oliver, who runs the farm, are convinced will be the next superfood. Even if they are wrong, it sure tastes good. If you can, make a reservation for one of the farm’s Slow Down Dinners when the bounty of the farm is on magnificent display.

sorrel buds

bright red sorrel buds like these are used to brew a sweet, spicy and refreshing drink

As I mentioned, VISFI is more than just a farm. Their two month Ridge to Reef Beneficial Farming Training is a residential farm-study programme which imparts the philosophy and practice of sustainable living and farming. Weekend and short-term workshops in bush skills, permaculture, agro-forestry and event mentoring are a few other recent events, and VISFI has teamed up with U.S.-based colleges to offer college credit for some activities. They also partnered with the Sierra Club to offer an outing earlier this year.

VISFI also has a knack for publicity: they were named a finalist in National Geographic’s Places on the Edge Geo-Tourism Awards 2011 and have been written about by the Huffington Post and bloggers such as Travellious.

For more information on the farms mentioned above, please contact:

La Reine Farmers Market (340/778-0998); ARTfarm (340/514-4873, www.ARTfarmllc.com); Sejah Farm of the Virgin Islands (340/277-6046 or 277-9392, www.sejahfarm.com); Tropics Hydroponics (340/227-5546); Virgin Islands Farm Institute (340/220-0466, www.visfi.org).

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About Susanna

Susanna is a Tennessee native transplanted to the BVI, and the author of Moon Handbooks Virgin Islands.

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5 Comments on “Farm Fresh on St. Croix”

  1. wisdomsoflife Says:

    they do make sweet purple sugar apple drink in Thailand. Really good.

    Reply

  2. Jane Watkins Says:

    Absolutely fantastic article. St. Croix is home to many great farms and farmers. So glad you shared this information. The La Reine market is a must!

    Reply

    • Susanna Says:

      Thanks Jane, and I agree about the La Reine market. I think you helped me with my first trip to St Croix back in 2004. Nice to know you’re still around. I hope you’ll keep reading the blog.

      Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. News clipping: the Boston Globe on Guana, plus eco-initiatives | Virgin Islands Traveller - December 6, 2011

    […] by Marie Elena Martinez: mentions were given to Ridge-to-Reef Farm on St. Croix (the subject of a past blog post); St. John’s resorts (Caneel Bay’s on-site beekeeper and the Westin’s guest […]

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