Farmers Market a Hit in Road Town
Sir Olva Georges Plaza used to be a busy place, but as Road Town expanded, the activity, which featured farmers and fishermen including bushels of bananas and sea turtle stew, relocated or disappeared altogether. Now, thanks to the BVI Farmers Network, all that has changed.
“This was the original location for the Road Town market, back into the ’50s,” said Aragorn Dick-Read, organiser of the network, who owns Good Moon Farm in Turnbull Estate. “It’s a really valid cultural space.”
At the Farmers Market, sellers pay a small fee, and in return can sell anything from pumpkins to plantains, guavas to granola. And so far, customers are coming out in droves to snatch up fresh, local produce.
Eventually, said Mr. Dick-Read, the plan is to find a permanent space for the market, but for now, sellers keep cool under repurposed sails and by sipping icy cane juice.
The market’s resurgence is part of an overall growing interest in agriculture that began after Hurricane Irma. Many farmers have said that the BVI, which began as an economy based around farming and fishing but now relies almost entirely on imports, should once again start producing its own food.
“After the hurricane, people are starting to realize how important it is to be able to feed ourselves,” said Fred Robinson, a farmer who also has a day job at the Department of Agriculture. He said that looting of grocery stores, when people were in real danger of going hungry, served as a wake-up call to the territory that it can’t rely on imports for long.
Mr. Dick-Read added, “There is some contagion going on at the moment about food supply and that we’ve got to find alternatives… It’s a totally natural human instinct and response in the face of crisis.”
At her stand, Nea Talbot sells baskets of her signature “bumblebee” cherry tomatoes. She runs Full Belly Farm on Sage Mountain and recently received a Kickstart Loan from Unite BVI to expand her business. She sees a future for agriculture and cuisine in the territory, and
Selling at the farmers market, organizers said, is win-win for both farmers and buyers. Buyers get access to fresh, locally-grown produce, and sellers don’t have to compete with the supermarkets, who can charge less for imported products.
But in order to keep the farming tradition alive in the BVI, it needs to start at home. Minister of Education and Culture Myron Walwyn this year announced a plan to help kids develop green thumbs by bringing back school gardens, a concept that faded away as schools moved toward teaching other subjects.
Several attempts have been made to start a regular farmers’ market over the years, but they all fell by the wayside for various reasons. Hopefully, this one will stick.
Mr. Dick-Read said that, as the territory begins to formulate a new agricultural policy, that they should listen to the farmers who are grouped around the market each month, each of whom can lovingly describe every crop they grow and how they grew it. “People here know how to grow food,” he said.
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