March 25, 2017 11:26 am Last modified: 3:12 pm

St. John Garden Fair to Benefit Kids’ Learning Garden, Community Garden Project

The St. John Garden Fair will benefit the Coral Bay Kids’ Learning Garden & Community Garden Project. It will take place from 11: 30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday, March 25, at Coral Bay Agriculture Center.

This fair is an official National Agriculture Week event. Admission is free; donations are welcomed.

Presentations will include: 

* Permaculture/Agroforestry Workshop

* Beekeeping Demonstration

* Native Trees Presentation

* Medicinal Plants Presentation

* Crafting Natural Products for Your Home Workshop

* Grafting Demonstration

* Community Garden Organization Workshop

Presenters will include: Colleen Brooker, Irvin Stevens, Eugene Brady, Ital Delroy Anthony, Eleanor Gibney, Annie Caswell, Raymond Thomas, Gifft Hill School and special surprise guests.

There will be children’s activities all day, vegetarian food provided by Lindsey Chabot and St. John Catering and Mathayom Private Chefs, garden crafts, farmers’ market, natural products, a plant sale, community garden sign-up and mobilization.

Coral Bay Community Garden Project

Over six years ago, a plan for the Coral Bay Community Garden Project was announced. A groundbreaking ceremony was held. Two acres of land behind the Coral Bay Agriculture Center on King Hill Road was parsed into quarter acre plots and granted to seven Virgin Islands residents. Since then, the recipients of the land grants have signed leases but have not been allowed to farm the land. For years, the project has been held up in the V.I. Department of Property and Procurement.

More recently a group of local moms have been searching for land to install a Kid’s Learning Garden in Coral Bay. Like many Virgin Islanders, these parents value growing food and want to share this value with their children.

The St. John Garden Fair

Colleen Brooker, one of the professional growers who was promised land behind the Agriculture Center approached local promoter/writer Catherine Turner to mobilize the community to bring the projects to life. Together, they envisioned a day of workshops, demos, food, shopping and fun centered around gardening, farming and community awareness. Raymond Thomas, director of the Coral Bay Agriculture Center, was approached about hosting the event. He agreed and scheduled the event to coincide with National Agriculture Month.

Catherine Turner — “When Colleen Brooker, owner and operator of the gardening company Passiflora Designs, approached me about reviving the languishing community garden projects in Coral Bay, I jumped at the chance to help organize and promote her efforts. With her degree in ecological anthropology, certification in permaculture and agroforestry, and over a decade of experience growing both ornamental and food plants and trees in the Virgin Islands, Colleen is one of the most qualified people I know to teach gardening.”

We Grow Food

When the idea was circulated, the community banded together. Eleanor Gibney and local grower Irvin Stevens immediately joined the roster. Both Raymond Thomas and Eugene Brady of the Ag. Center agreed to present. The rest followed shortly to fill the day’s schedule with valuable information. Beyond the classes, kids’ hands-on activities, craft vending, food and entertainment were added.

Bring a picnic blanket, perhaps a bottle of wine, relax under the ancient trees, enjoy the beautiful grounds and join us for a full day of education and fun!

Activism and Petition

At the St. John Garden Fair’s community-sign-up table, resources will be available. People can sign a petition to urge Carlos Robles, commissioner of agriculture, to expedite the Coral Bay Community Garden Project. The petition is also available online at: https://www.change.org/p/urge-the-vi-government-to-bring-the-coral-bay-community-gardens-project-to-life

For those who prefer letter writing campaigns, information on who to write and form letters will be available. People may also donate money or volunteer time to one or more of the garden projects.

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