MESSAGE BY DEPUTY PREMIER, AND MINISTER FOR EDUCATION,
CULTURE, YOUTH AFFAIRS, FISHERIES AND AGRICULTURE,
DR. THE HONOURABLE NATALIO WHEATLEY
DECLARING FARMERS’ AND FISHERS’ WEEK 2022 OPEN
RISE A TIME FOR ACTION, INSPIRATION AND IMPACT
SUNDAY 27TH MARCH, 2022
Good day and God’s blessings to the people of the Virgin Islands.
There is a story sometimes told to describe heaven and hell. It is referred to as the parable of the long spoons. In this story, a man visits heaven and hell and learns a fundamental difference between a life of misery and one of joy.
While visiting hell, the man entered a room where many people were seated around a large table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of soup - for our purposes, we will call it peas soup; Virgin Islands style of course, with red peas, dumplings, ground provisions, coconut milk, a “lil salt thing” and lightly sweetened with sugar.
It smelled and looked good, and yet those seated around the table were starving. When the young man looked closer, he observed that they all had long spoons, long enough to reach the pot of soup, but too long to feed themselves. So they sat, with everything they needed to be well-fed, and yet they suffered and starved.
The man then visited heaven, where he witnessed an identical table setting to what he had seen in hell. People with long spoons were also seated around a large table with a big pot of peas soup in the middle. However, unlike what he had observed in hell, the people around this table were all joyous and well-fed. The difference was that they had learned to use those long spoons to feed each other, and as a result, no one starved.
This Farmers’ and Fishers’ Week, our theme, “Rise - A Time for Action, Inspiration and Impact” is guided by the principle that we must work together to inspire action and make the greatest impact.
There is no need for me to emphasise how important it is for Virgin Islanders to be more self-sufficient. It is clear how easily we are affected by what takes place beyond our borders, as we import the majority of what we consume.
It is also clear, that we cannot control or even influence these external changes and must therefore put our efforts into our internal growth while building healthy partnerships with those in our region and even internationally. Careful investment and support for developing our local farming and fishing industries is necessary to build and further develop a well-structured, resilient and accountable food system in the Virgin Islands. As our population increases and our health, social and economic challenges become more complex, we have a responsibility to ensure that everyone is able to access healthy, life-giving food and fishers and farmers are able to build profitable industries that support them and their families, while contributing to our local economy.
Healthy food is essential for healthy communities and a healthy Virgin Islands. Access to healthy food is central to physical and mental health, minimal spending on health care and overall good quality of life.
Food is also an expression of our cultural heritage. I am always amused by the tart wars, especially at Christmas time. “You know my favourite is guava?” Some have taken this as far as to create a soap opera-type mini-series on social media solely based on differing preferences for tart fillings which can all be derived from locally cultivated coconut, pineapple, guava and guavaberry. Some islands in our Territory are even known for niche foods, for instance currimole fish and guinea corn from Anegada; rice porridge or steamed fish with boiled sugar apple on Jost Van Dyke; boiled chicken in galvanize sauce in North Sound, Virgin Gorda; and boiled sugar apple and pigtail on Tortola, and of course our territorial dish of fungi and fish in mayonnaise sauce, which we hold as delicacies.
We also recognise that a healthy and diverse resource base is essential to our fishing and farming industries. Healthy, rich soils free of harmful chemicals and vibrant disease-free marine ecosystems supported by our collective consciousness of careful use of our natural resources will ensure that these industries grow and thrive.
During our celebration of farmers and fishers this week, we hope to be able to emphasize the need to build the agriculture and fisheries industries together. As we showcase the hard work of our farmers and fishers, we hope to inspire others to join the movement towards a more self-sufficient Virgin Islands. We look forward to your full support of our week-long activities on all four of the major islands – from Anegada to Jost Van Dyke. Look out for daily features of farmers and fishers and other activities on the Government of the Virgin Islands’ Facebook page. On Monday, we will be on Jost Van Dyke for farm visits and activities at the school.
I am looking forward to Tuesday’s dedication of the long awaited Virgin Gorda Agriculture and Fisheries Station and the bringing back of the Market and Exhibition Day.
I commend those persons who have taken on the challenge to go on the agricultural hike to Aukie’s Farm in Carrot Bay on Wednesday. Many of us will recall that for several consecutive years, he won the award for Champion Farmer. Some of our schools will also be visiting farms on Tortola this week to get a first-hand view of the possibilities in agricultural production.
With a renewed focus on youth in agriculture, on Thursday we will be on Anegada where we will have the groundbreaking ceremony for a poultry facility at the Claudia Creque Educational Centre and assist the school with enhancing its garden. The designation of lands for agriculture and fisheries purposes remains a priority for this Government. I am therefore pleased that we will be able to unveil the billboards on Anegada for this purpose.
The week will conclude on Saturday, 2nd April with the market and exhibition day at Paraquita Bay. In addition to the various stalls showcasing local produce, fish, preserves, pastries, crafts, and other items, we have many activities lined up. A peas soup competition, VI style, local fruit juice competitions, donkey cart ride, greased pig competition are among some of the day’s highlights.
I encourage all to support the week’s activities and to join the movement and support our farmers and fishers. As Minister with responsibility for Agriculture and Fisheries, I now declare Farmers’ and Fishers’ Week 2022 open.