The 38th Annual Agrifest on St. Croix offers visitors the perfect opportunity to explore island culture through its savory food, captivating music and fun activities. For three days in February, the territory’s agriculture will take center stage. It is an eagerly anticipated event and well-attended every year. Agrifest, also known as the Agriculture and Food Fair, is the largest agricultural exposition in the territory. The fair is scheduled for February 14-16, 2009. It attracts farmers and craftspeople throughout the islands, and includes live music, an extensive farmers market, a crafts fair, cooking demonstrations, livestock and horse and donkey rides.
The fair has put the USVI on the world map for agri-tourists — food lovers drawn to unspoiled regions, or travelers who seek out destinations prized for small-scale, low-impact farming operations that complement local cuisine. Food journalists also attend, sampling recipes and learning the food secrets of island cooks in order to share with readers.
“It’s a warm-hearted, jubilant celebration,” says Commissioner of Tourism Beverly Nicholson-Doty, “but at heart this festival has a significant message: that we are dedicated to protecting our natural resources and farm heritage through sustainable practices, and that we are determined to preserve our Caribbean paradise for future generations as an irresistible getaway with a rich food culture.”
The fair, which will take place on the grounds of The Rudolph Schulterbrandt Agricultural Complex in Estate Lower Love, promises to delight the senses as the aroma of fresh-cooked meals wafts from food pavilions. Vendors often dress in traditional attire like madras skirts and head pieces. They offer traditional dishes like kallaloo, souse, fish and fungi and local drinks, such as ginger beer, sorrel, passion fruit and maubi. Desserts include Vienna cakes, tarts, pies, tamarind balls, jams and jellies.
There will be roast pig demonstrations, entertainment, rides, games and competitions. Farmers will compete for two coveted awards: Farmer of the Year and the Commissioner’s Cup. On display in the livestock pavilion will be sheep, cattle, peacocks, chickens, ducks, pigs and other farm animals, and there will also be a petting zoo.
To inspire an appreciation for agriculture among youth, an Ag Olympics and mini Rodeo will take place in the livestock ring. Among the activities will be grain sack races and a goat milking contest. In addition, there will be cake, cookie and hay bale decorating contests.
Fair goers will be able to buy T-shirts, postcards and a fair booklet highlighting the agricultural research and cultural richness of the islands. Over the years, the bulletin has evolved from a listing of fair events into a booklet with poems, local recipes and articles on environmental issues.
Agrifest hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Entrance fees are $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for children.
The fair is co-sponsored by the Department of Tourism, the Department of Agriculture and the University of the Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service. Corporate sponsors are Hovensa LLC, AARP Virgin Islands, Innovative Communications Corp. and the Department of Health. There will be exhibits by the University of the Virgin Islands Research and Public Service component, the Virgin Islands Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Photos provided by VI Agrifest.