Sept. 15, 2006 – The Virgin Islands Farmers Cooperative (VIFC) held a press conference at Windsor Farms on Friday to announce its receipt of a Small Minority Producer Grant. The grant will assist in a feasibility study to determine if the territory may once again produce fresh milk.
Island Dairies, a staple of the St. Croix community, recently sold the last of its dairy cows after 48 years of fresh milk production. "The dairy industry has been a part of our culture for 60 years and fresh milk has been produced on the island for 150 years," said VIFC President Dale Browne.
Windsor Farms is the last of five dairy farms still operating on the island. With the use of reconstituted milk, the farm's herd of more than 300 cows has been sold and shipped off-island.
Nicasio Nico Jr., vice president and co-owner of St. Croix Dairy Products (which owns Island Dairies), said recently that the decision to curtail fresh milk production was due in part to the high cost of insurance, utilities and the lack of a local veterinarian.
Reconstituted milk is a mixture of water, butter and powder – a far cry from the fresh milk many residents grew up on. Although the packaging of the milk is the same, the taste has changed.
According to Browne, the grant will allow for a marketing study of the potential for locally developed and unprocessed agricultural commodities. The second aspect of the grant will "show how profitable or not production of fresh milk will be in the territory," he said.
Browne said the VIFC will then develop a three-year integrated business and marketing plan for the acquisition and operation of the more than 500 acres of farmland.
The grant, awarded by USDA Rural Development, is worth more than $170,000.
During this time of elections and campaigning, Browne said candidates need to "now look at making agriculture a viable part of our economy. We need the same efforts put towards agriculture as are used in tourism and EDC companies."
Yvette Browne, VIFC vice president, said the cooperative is currently seeking more members and contributors. "We are looking for office space," she said.
For more information on how to become a member of VIFC, contact Dale Browne at 277-6046.
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