Jan. 25, 2004 — This weekend, at the seventh annual Bordeaux Farmers Rastafari Agricultural and Cultural Food Fair, farmers on Estate Bordeaux came together to let every one know that organic farming is a viable way of life.
"Our mission is to secure the land so we can all live together," said Kendall Seigo Petersen, vice-president of St. Croix Farmers in Action. Petersen says agriculture is more than just an economic livelihood. "When I was growing up there was no crime and not even one supermarket." Petersen believes St. Croix's decision to focus on industry, instead of agriculture, has been detrimental to those on the island. Instead his organization is working to promote organic farming as a way to restore a sense of balance to those living in the territory. Says Petersen, "The only solution to the pollution is agriculture."
A few feet away from Farmers in Action, the V.I. Energy Office had set up a booth to help promote energy conservation. In addition to flyers offering energy-saving tips, the office featured a solar power exhibit to show fairgoers about harnessing the sun's power. "The fair is a great opportunity," said Jamal Nielsen, media information specialist for the V.I. Energy Office. "Any time we can reach out to the community and help them take advantage of the available resources is a plus." Nielsen says the energy office is currently working with the Bordeaux farmers to install a solar-powered water pump.
The fair each year is organized by We Grow Food, a collective of local farmers dedicated to organic farming. According to WGF member Ras-Jomo-I, the fair is about more than just agriculture. "It's about righteousness. It's about doing good instead of evil. It's about growing our daily food and sharing it will all people, no matter who they are. And none of this would be possible without Haile Selassie I." A pivotal figure in the Rastafari movement, Selassie was a 20th-century black visionary who helped modernize Ethiopa and worked to abolish its slave trade.
Also during the fair, We Grow Food recognized Eustace James, also called Ras-Kamyio, as its farmer of the year. Each year the award is given to a farmer whose hard work and successful farming exemplify the goals and ideals of the collective.
Additionally, several individuals at the fair received plaques. Walla Boom was given a plaque from inmates at the St. Croix Bureau of Corrections commemorating his long years of teaching art to the inmates there. Boom, who works primarily in wood and bamboo, was one of the men teaching art to the children at the fair.
Also receiving a plaque was WGF treasurer Eldridge Thomas, also known as Brother Spark. An elder of the Bordeaux community, Brother Spark was honored for outstanding service to Bordeaux agriculture. Said Ras-Jomo-I, "He is an elder of our community and his dedication and hard work are an example to all of us."
Ras-Jomo-I was also eager to highlight the work of Ras-Imani. A farmer and WGF member, Ras-Imani was primarily responsible for building the Youth Activity Center and has completed a lot of the concrete work on the fairgrounds. Said Ras-Jomo-I: "Ras-Imani didn't win any awards this year, but the fair wouldn't have happened without him."
Another indispensable individual to the success of this year's fair was Sister Benita Samuel, the secretary of WGF. A full time special-education teacher, Samuel is in charge of public relations and helping to secure funding grants for WGF. Judging from the overflow Sunday crowds, Samuel definitely helped make the fair a success.
Anyone looking for fresh produce certainly wasn't disappointed. The fair had an abundance of farmers selling green herbs, squash, peppers, tomatillos and cucumbers, just to name few. In addition, this year's fair also featured a variety of vendors selling everything from Kenyan coffee soap and jewelry to johnny cakes and sugar cane water. In addition the fair provided tours of local farms and even offered demonstrations on broom-making and beekeeping.
At the various booths — many painted red, green and gold — vendors were also selling a variety of items featuring Selassie and reggae icon Bob Marley, who gave a global focus to the Jamaican-rooted Rastafari movement.
Tom Spradle, a New York native vacationing on the island, heard about the fair Sunday morning and took a taxi out to Bordeaux. Although not originally interested in organic farming, Spradle said the Bordeaux fair was an "eye-opening" event. "You really don't think about how important farming really is, this fair really helps put it all in perspective. I'm glad I made the trip out."
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