There’s no denying that the heart and soul of the Virgin Islands lies in the territory’s robust agriculture. With its rich, premium soil and its proximity to the equator, this combination creates a unique taste and texture in produce that surpasses the flavor of food grown on the United States mainland. St. Croix, an island once known as the “Breadbasket of the Caribbean,” has continued to make strides to eliminating food insecurity on the island with recent support from World Central Kitchen’s (WCK) Food Producer Network (FPN).
FPN was established in Puerto Rico 2018 in response to the devastating hurricane season the year prior. To date, $3.7 million in grants have been disbursed to over 200 food producers affected by natural disasters in the Caribbean and Central America. In 2020, WCK expanded the program to the Virgin Islands to support the farmers, fishers and food-related small businesses that suffered catastrophic losses after Hurricanes Irma and María. FPN helps to strengthen food security and sustain economic development throughout the territory’s food producing communities for many years to come.
Mikol Hoffman, Director of WCK’s Food Producer Network, shared his vision on how the program benefits the USVI. “We have seen through collected data that program participants increase their sales and production by over 50% after one year in the Network,” said Hoffman. FPN also works to connect its partners to each other and bring together a vibrant community of food producers who now actively collaborate through new production and distribution partnerships. This results in greater reach and increased market presence. “Through these efforts, program participants can become stronger as a whole than as individual food system operators and increase their productive resilience against future disasters.”
When asked about the potential of developing sustainable food systems in the USVI, Hoffman credited the territory’s abundance of fertile lands and abundant waters. “We see tremendous potential in not only developing a sustainable food system, but a thriving food economy with interconnected food producers working hand in hand.”
To date, WCK has invested over $300,000 through 20 grants across the Virgin Islands, with an average grant size of $15,000. Their latest round of funding invested $78,000 through five grants to food producers on St. Croix and St. Thomas including Concordia Farm, Crescent Farms, Kallaloo Farms, LLC and Mystical Farms on St. Croix and Tropical Pops Popsicles on St. Thomas.
For more information, please visit wck.org/fpn-usvi to learn more about World Central Kitchen’s Food Producer Network in the US Virgin Islands.
Photo of Kallaloo Farm – Edward Schuster
Article written by Anquanette Gaspard (firstname.lastname@example.org) for Coldwell Banker, St. Croix Realty
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