Nov. 20, 2002 Local foods, live music, just-picked crops, tropical plants and native crafts are just a sampling of what to expect at this year's St. Thomas-St. John Agriculture and Food Fair. Set for this weekend, Nov. 23-24, and hosted by the V.I. Department of Agriculture and the University of the Virgin Islands, the theme is "Support Agriculture: Eat What You Grow."
Carlos Robles, fair chairman and acting district supervisor of UVI's Cooperative Extension Service, said, "We thought the theme is appropriate, especially because this is a good time of year to start planting. We've had good rains, and with the cooler weather there are fewer insects. The fair is a good place to look for those plants you'd like to grow."
The fair will unofficially begin on Friday with activities oriented towards school children.
"The School Agriculture Activity Day (SAAD) is designed to engage and expose our youth to the various fields in agriculture and allied professions," Robles said.
He said SAAD first began in 1990 with great success, but it never continued. "When I assumed the presidency two years ago, I thought it would be a good thing to revive because one of the objectives of the organizational committee is to encourage the youth to become involved in agriculture and allied professions," he said.
For this year's event, five schools will host displays. In addition, there will be nine interactive learning stations that highlight various aspects of agriculture. These include bee-keeping, horse grooming, fish farming, cabbage art, solar energy, sea animals including a touch pond with starfish and sea cucumbers, environmental hazards, and a live farm animal where Department of Agriculture veterinarian, Beth Bradford, will let kids hear the animal's heartbeats through a stethoscope.
The School Activity Day is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. All school children, from preschool to junior high, are invited. The event is open to the public.
The traditional two-day fair will feature a variety of fruits and vegetables, arts and crafts, nursery plants and food.
"We expect the crop farmers to bring produce items like water coconuts, sugar cane, cucumbers, beets and fresh corn," Robles said.
Fifteen arts and crafts booths will feature locally made items, including woodwork, jewelry, dolls, sandals and fruit preserves.
"The food section is growing," Robles said. "We have a record 28 food booths this year. They're basically divided into vegetarian and traditional local foods like chicken, fish, and macaroni and cheese. New this year, we've introduced gourmet popcorn."
A dozen booths will sell indoor and outdoor plants, herbs, fruit trees and vegetable seedlings. There will also be a livestock display, a petting zoo and educational exhibits.
"We'll have cows, sheep and goats," Robles said. "This year we have a special goat from South Africa called the Boer goat. It's a meat goat that is big; it looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger."
Educational exhibits include health screenings in the Health Department's on-site van with a focus on diabetes on Saturday, a grafting workshop for mangoes and avocados at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, and a turkey carving demonstration and food safety talk at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Competitions, which will be judged Sunday, will include the best maubi and largest turkey.
A raffle will feature great prizes including a calf for first prize; five fruit trees for second; five bags of animal feed for third; a native recipe cookbook for fourth; a medicinal plants book for fifth, and 750 feet of drip tubing for sixth. There also will be numerous door prizes.
Live music will fill the air throughout the weekend. WEB Productions (D.J.) will entertain from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, with P'Your Passion Band playing from 1 to 4 p.m.
On Sunday, WEB Productions will again entertain, with special performances by the St. Andrews Wind Ensemble and Steel Band from 10-11:30 a.m. and the Rising Stars Steel Orchestra from 3 to 6 p.m.
"The Fair is a great family-oriented event," Robles said. "Come early, stay late and spend the day. It's a good time for everyone."
The fair will be held at UVI on the Reichhold Center grounds. It is open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Admission is $1 for children under 12 and $2 for people 12 years of age and older.
The Agriculture and Food Fair is sponsored by the West Indian Company Ltd., the Anti-Litter and Beautification Commission St. Thomas/St. John, Lew Henley's Sewage Disposal, and the St. Thomas-St. John Agriculture and Food Fair Committee.
For more information about the Agriculture and Food Fair, call UVI's Cooperative Extension Service at 693-1080. For more information about the School Agriculture Activity Day, call Jacquel Dawson at 693-1380 or Mary Bertie at 774-5182.
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