Locally Grown

Nothing says more about a culture than food. And how that food is produced says a lot about the way people care about and for the land on which it’s grown. The British Virgin Islands has local farms that are changing the way the people of the BVI think about what they eat. Plus, they all have delicious produce. We’re profiling a few of these establishments for a peek into the farm-to-fork movement.

Tidal Roots, Tortola

Sam Brown and Timothy Parsons run Tidal Roots Farm in Belle Vue, Tortola. After Hurricane Irma practically cleared their land for them, Sam and Tim spent the following months focused on rebuilding their home and ensuring their friends and family were safe and secure. The farm rebooted slowly but surely and made its first sale in January 2018.

The farm is situated on ridgetop land overlooking Cooten Bay, and covers about 0.6 acres, with the potential to expand operations down the hillside. Tidal Roots hopes to plant a fruit orchard there in the near future. No-till permanent raised beds are farmed for nine months, and cover crops are utilised for the remainder of the year. Soil health is very important to Sam (and something she loves to teach the kids in Gardening Club for grades 5 and 6 at Joyce Samuel Primary School), and the goal is to not only maximise production but also for the potential health of the soil.

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The Tidal Roots CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program provides a variety of vegetables to its 40 members each week, and throughout the season can include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, lettuce, kale, arugula, chard, collards, beans, carrots, beets, radish, kohlrabi, mustard greens, and a variety of herbs and edible flowers. The farm also provisions for yachts and some local restaurants.

“The truth is, we just really love what we do. Its long hours, hard work, and filled with a ton of purpose. There’s no better feeling for us than enjoying a meal from our garden after a productive day at the farm. There’s a lot of chaos and imbalance in the world right now – socially, politically, psychologically, and especially environmentally. We’ve intentionally devoted our lives to making a positive impact, in our small way,” said Sam.

Popular Tidal Roots crops include heirloom tomatoes (That have never been genetically modified by commercial production), lettuce, arugula, carrots and basil. You can find Tidal Roots produce at the Saturday Farmers Market in Road Town and on Facebook and Instagram at @TidalRootsFarmBVI.

Agri-Paradise-VG, Virgin Gorda

Arringdell and Triston Creque have owned and run Agri-Paradise VG since 2013. The original goal was to run a poultry farm to provide quality meat to the community while reducing the number of chickens imported to Virgin Gorda. With additional help from their associate Japheth Stevens, the group hired heavy machinery to begin clearing the land. Stevens then had to extract himself from the project, but the dream of a farm forged ahead. Three buildings were constructed over the next two years, and in 2015 the poultry business began. Approximately 18 months later, a greenhouse to house hydroponic growing methods was constructed and nearly ready to begin operation.

After Hurricane Irma devastated their acre of land near North Sound and all of their hard work was literally blown away, Arringdell and Triston had to regroup and determine a new way forward. In addition to assisting their island neighbours however they could, they determined that the concrete platform that once housed the chickens would be the perfect foundation for a new hydroponic greenhouse.

Agri-ParadiseVG produces two popular crops to local people and restaurants on Virgin Gorda and the outer islands. Several varieties of lettuce are harvested less than 24 hours prior to delivery for maximum freshness, and their customized microgreen mix is a local chef favourite. A smaller edible flower operation has also begun.

The hydroponic approach was borne out of the desire to use less water than traditional farming methods, while simultaneously offering year-round operational ability. Arringdell and Triston view their farm as the sustainable future for crop farming in the BVI. They use no pesticides or herbicides and have a goal to make the farm totally reliant upon solar energy soon.

“What’s most rewarding to me is being able to give back what I’ve learned by educating others (mainly the younger generation) through the use of advanced hydroponics techniques. Just seeing their facial reactions is priceless and certainly rewarding to me. It is rewarding to know that you can enjoy fresh and healthy produce of the highest quality grown locally,” said Triston Creque.

Their proprietary lettuce mix contains five varieties, and popular microgreen crops include varieties sunflower, pea tendrils, radish, and their own custom spicy mix. They provide produce to local supermarkets and restaurants including Buck’s Food Market,  Rosy’s Supermarket, Chef Pantry, RiteWay in Pasea, Chez Bamboo, Sugarcane, Cocomaya, Dove, Village Cafe, Fisher’s Cove, Wonky Dog in Anegada, Lady Sarah’s Bistro, Eustatia island and Nova restaurant in Deep Bay. You can find Agri-ParadiseVG on Facebook at @Agri.ParadiseVG.

Good Moon Farm, Tortola

Born and raised on Tortola, Aragorn Dick-Read and his wife, Frederica, started Good Moon Farm in 2005 with the simplest of goals: to provide fresh, locally-grown organic produce to the community. The farm’s day-to-day operations are handled by Drake Auguiste, a Kalinago-Carib who grew up in the banana fields of Dominica. The farm’s crops are planted by the lunar calendar (hence the “good moon” reference) using methods that minimise the pests that destroy particular crops according to the seasons.

“There’s nothing hard about farming! Plants grow on their own when you sleep,” Dick-Read says, with a wink. “They just need water, good soil and love. That is not always easy to get, but if you try, you will succeed.”

Good Moon Farm offers farm tours and tastings, as well as farm-to-table dinners (by appointment). The popular Good Moon Farm Box can be delivered anywhere in the BVI daily. Farm boxes can be conveniently ordered online with delivery options or for pickup in Trellis Bay or Marina Cay. Popular crops include all types of greens, herbs, fruits, roots and flowers.

In addition to local produce, Good Moon Farm offers a robust provisioning service to clients in the marina and yachting industry, as well as to the villa rental market. Their produce as well as high-quality imported goods are available for purchase, catering to the needs of mega yacht and villa chefs, as well as bareboat sailors and charter yachts.

“We were picking lettuce and spinach in the eye of [Hurricane] Irma. We didn’t quit then and doubt we ever will,” said Dick-Read.

Learn more about Good Moon Farm at www.GoodMoonFarm.com.

Full Belly Farm, Tortola

Nea Talbot studied agroecology and sustainable agriculture and starting a farm was always her end goal. In 2011, her microgreens and flowers business began supporting local restaurants. Since then, roots and relationships have deepened and a more diverse product offering is now what Full Belly Farm provides to the community. The 2-acre farm in Tortola grows at least 30 different food plants at any given time.

“Being a small organic, ecologically-focused farm in the Caribbean can feel isolating. Farmers practising regenerative agriculture in the Caribbean are few, and I am always searching for others in the region with whom I could talk farming! In the BVI, conventional agriculture is the norm, but the group of farmers is growing!” said Talbot.

Talbot loves contributing to the community and having customers and chefs get excited about real, fresh organic food is one of her favourite aspects of farming in the BVI. But the produce is only part of why Full Belly Farm exists as it does.

“We’re not out there just to plant and harvest crops. We’re out there to preserve old ways of farming and integrate new sustainable practices. We’re out there to show what can be done when you deeply care for and respect the land and your community. We’re out there because it is a real, tangible way to lessen the human impact upon the earth. Agro-ecology is agriculture practised in harmony with the environment,” said Talbot.

You can find Full Belly Farm produce at Cooper Island Beach Club, Necker and Moskito Island as well as at the BVI Farmers Market. You can also find Full Belly Farm online on Facebook and Instagram at @FullBellyFarmBVI.

Sara Sherman
Sara Sherman is a former St. Thomas resident and the editor of Virgin Islands Property & Yacht.
Sara Sherman

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