One of the most dangerous things we as a society can do is assign labels to individuals or groups of individuals. Often, without any sustaining or consistent proof, we will make negative judgments about people or their actions without carefully analyzing the accompanying mitigating circumstances that surround the decision for that particular action or behavior to occur.
St. Croix, the Big Island, has been unfairly labeled. Yes, it has many problems that we on the other islands are less worried about. Yes, crime, sewage, unemployment and domestic and sexual assaults face us all; however, St. Croix is the most challenged. But let us take a break from speaking about what is wrong on St. Croix and praise the people of the island for what they do exceptionally well.
The Crucians can put together an Agriculture and Food Fair that can hold its weight against most any other such fair outside the territory. I would like to commend and recognize St. Croix for their annual agriculture fair..
Unlike the St. Thomas Agricultural and Food Fair board, the St. Croix fair board has been creative and innovative year after year and continues to expand the size and attractions of the fair each year. On St. Thomas, the only thing that has expanded every year has been the board's excuses of why the St. Thomas fair has not grown — or, as this year, has been canceled.
The St. Thomas fair board is not alone in failing to promote the significance and importance of the fair — not just to the visitors but to the farmers and our future economy as well. Others also exhibit a lack of resourcefulness in putting together a really successful and expanded fair and providing more educational and assistance programs on St. Thomas: The governor, senators and delegate all play a role.
The more we know, the more we grow. With more locally grown produce, we are able to lower the costs to the consumers, and those savings can be spent to boost our economy in numerous other ways.
While Economic Development Commission incentives have their place, the government must begin to balance the short-term return with the longer-term return on our invested tax dollars. Investing more in farming and farmers is a long-term investment that can benefit us all: lower produce costs, more revenues if exported, and more resources via consumer purchases generated for the territory.
We can begin to pay attention and strengthen our farming community by looking at what St. Croix has done right. Crucians have demonstrated a true appreciation of the value of agriculture in the territory. St. Croix is the perfect environment to start a program to promote agriculture. There are a number of ways to promote and increase farming:
– Offer initiatives to enhance the water supply.
– Lower prices on grain, hay, seeds and seedlings.
– Increase taxes on imported produce and redirect those taxes to local farming initiatives.
Maybe, just maybe, given the fact that St. Croix has perfected the art of agricultural fairs, now is the time to reward the Crucians by using their talent in a way that will help us all, in the short and long term. St. Croix is known for better harvesting and of flatter land and terrain for farming. Instead of the territory investing all of our taxpayer dollars in one tourism basket, why not seek alternative revenue streams such as improving agricultural programs to generate resources via exports and local purchases?
There are those (government and non-government officials) who say that agriculture cannot work. I say to them agriculture was here before they were, it is here now, and it will be here after they are gone. Let us utilize our talent wherever it resides — and our agriculture talent, present and future, resides on the island of St. Croix.
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