agriculture and food fair of the u.s. virgin islands

St. Croix has three major holidays - St. Patrick's Day, Mardi Croix, and Ag Fair. I think the first two are pretty self explanatory, but Ag Fair is a little different.

Basically, 30,000 people travel to the island for the weekend (some of whom stayed in cabanas on the farm and proceeded to use curling irons (???) that overloaded our solar system and left 20 people without power for 24 hours, but that's another story) to walk around and eat good food while shopping from Rastafari booth vendors and a large farmer's market. ...Okay, I guess that's a simplistic point of view - there is also a lot of music, animals, and Obama t-shirts.

Creque Dam Farm used their booth this year to educate children. In past years, we sold plants and produce with little success, so this year we decided we would speak to our main mission, which is education.

We taught the kids who came to our booth how to make seed balls, which is a very simple way for them to learn the importance of soil building. The balls are made of clay, compost and seeds - the kids can literally just throw the ball into their yard and watch a plant grow. No planting or watering necessary. We used the seeds crotalaria, sun flower, and pigeon pea plants, which are all legumes, enriching soil through nitrogen fixation. Bam!

We also had friction fire demonstrations, basket weaving, and other fun activities for the kids. The local boy scout troop was right next to us, and let's just say that we could probably teach them a thing or two. I'm just sayin...

Man makes fire...

On Friday of last week, our class was split into a three different groups to prepare for the fair. One group prepared the decorations and signage for the booth. One group gathered and harvested seeds and other material that would be used in our demonstrations. And one group designed and constructed a structure that we could set up our operation under/around. I was in that group.

With the help of one Don Young, we designed a structure modeled after our hoop house on the farm. The hoop house is made of PVC pipe covered in cloth, and it's where we keep germinating seeds and small plants before they are taken to the nursery and eventually planted into the earth. Our Ag Fair "hoop house" was constructed out of bamboo, twine, and canvas.

We spent the morning harvesting bamboo and cutting it to length. That afternoon, Marshall and I rode in the dump truck with Ben to construct the booth at the fairgrounds. One piece of bamboo that Marshall found was about 30 feet in length and 6 inches in diameter, and in the very middle of the length, the bamboo turned at a 90 degree angle. It had fallen during the hurricane four months ago, but continued to grow upward, causing the angle in the stalk. This monster stalk caused for an interesting dump truck ride, especially down Creque Dam Road: a windy, skinny, pot-hole-riddled forest route that can barely pass as a street.

The structure took a couple of hours to assemble, but all the hard work paid off. I was extremely proud of it, as I'm sure the other guys who worked on it with me were.

Notice the flag waving. It is hanging off of the top of the monster bamboo stalk...

Rey (Reylbeck Leonardo Mercado Vacca) working the booth:

Ashley working the booth:


Will Rucker said...

cool ben, it looks like everything came together really well. it looks like certain people did a lot of meticulous things to prepare for the ag fair, i guess really just the sign making and whatnot. well, i guess i'll see you a month from today.

max. said...

so cool! do you have photos of the hoop house on the farm? that must have been a lot of fun to build. i'm jealous.

mmmm nitrogen fixation.