Statement
2 February 2015 - 1:30pm

REMARKS BY PREMIER AND MINISTER OF FINANCE

DR. THE HONOURABLE D. ORLANDO SMITH, OBE

2015 FARMERS' WEEK OPENING CEREMONY

JANUARY 30, 2015

PARAQUITA BAY

10:00 A.M.

 

“YOUTH AND SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE”

 

Good morning:

When I first heard of this year’s theme for Farmers’ Week: ‘Youth in Agriculture a Must – Food Security and Cultural Sustainability - a Plus’,” I was quite pleased.

You see, the theme continuously reflect my Government’s position in building a sustainable agricultural sector, and the importance of our young people in doing so.

I also note the recurring theme for the last two years have had a strong focus on youth in agriculture. This is consistent with my own vision for equipping and preparing our young people to be leaders of industries in BVI.

Back in the day, youth in agriculture was the norm.

From very early in life, we were taught by our parents how to plow the field; throw the fish line; and knead the dough to prepare the tart.

We were taught how to whip the guava to make the jam; grate the coconut to make the sugar cakes; pick the lemon grass, eucalyptus, or mint to steep the tea, and I can go on and on!

We must go back to basics, and teach those and other fundamentals.

Because if agriculture is to be long-lived. If we are going to ensure food security and cultural sustainability.

The value of hard work must be thought, and knowledge and skills must be passed on.

But we must also do more. I envision that our youth could bring a very different and innovative perspective to agriculture.

We have recently successfully integrated our other two key economic sectors into our education curricula.

I envision that we would do the same with the agriculture sector.

Already, in some ways it is entranced within the successful garden programmes in some of our schools. 

But beyond that we will improve access to training and education and have we have agreed that one of our green house facilities is dedicated for teaching purposes.

I also envision that our youths—many of whom are very technology savvy—will embrace farming through the use of new technology in farming.

I expect that they will find ways beyond the traditional methods to make farming more relevant for their generation.

I often say that even though the natural beauty of our Virgin Islands is breathtaking, we must find new ways to sell more than sun, sea and sand.

In a few short months, our new cruise pier will be finished, and we must prepare to deliver new experiences to our visitors.

I foresee that one such experience could be agricultural tourism!

This is where visitors and residents are able to tour our greenhouses and farms to see and taste foods in their natural state.

This is also an opportunity for them to see live demonstrations of how local delicacies are made. Delicacies such as tamarind stew, mango stew, and gooseberry stew, and so on.

So, we need our young people to start thinking about youth harvest festivals and conducting youth agricultural tours.

They must be able to make their unique marks on both the agricultural and tourism sectors, especially through areas such as food tourism and craft tourism, for example.

People travel from all over the world to experience the culture and cuisine that is unique to a country or region. Food tourism is becoming very big.

For example, last November travelers took advantage of the opportunity to taste the best of the BVI during our food fete and Anegada LobsterFest. We were treated to a variety of local culinary dishes prepared using local produce. Additionally, we highlighted our restaurants and local dishes as part of our tourism product.

This is how we push food tourism.

We create opportunities for the world to get a taste so that they can come and come again.

But we need our children to get involved to do their part to grow the produce, and harvest their crops for sale.

They are the ones we are looking to, to carry the legacy of the BVI forward.

I was thrilled recently when I looked at one of the local stations and watched as a young Virgin Islander, Jaleel Howe, demonstrated his skills in making local Mauby. He had learned this from his grandmother. As elders, this is how we pass the culinary baton to the next generation who will run with it. 

This year’s Farmer’s Week is focusing not only on food security, but also on cultural sustainability.

Indeed, we must be innovative with our natural resources.

In fact, many of you in my generation would remember the days when we made necklaces and bracelets from the jumbie beads, or earrings and brooches from the sandbox tree.

These are the unique ideas that we need to continue passing on to our children!

Let us teach them the cultural art of plaiting tire grass to make those fashionable hats and baskets that are always a hit with tourists and locals.

These are the unique ideas that we need to continue passing on to our children!

How about teaching them to make a fun toy like a spinning top from a tree limb, and shaving the limb into the form of the top.

These are the unique ideas that we need to continue passing on to our children!

How about teaching them how to weave baskets or how to make a fish pot with guard wiss.

These cultural skills, this cultural legacy, is credited as being significant in the early years of developing the Virgin Islands’ tourism product, and forged a path for today’s arts and crafts vendors.

These are the types of business ideas that help to grow our economy and give our tourists that one of a kind souvenir, a memorable gift that generates conversations in homes across the world, and entices their friends to put the BVI on their next travel agenda.

Agriculture for us back in the day was a natural part of life. But for our children today, we must entice them and generate their interest at all levels.

Youth are the hope for agriculture’s future. We must prepare them!

We have to teach them how they can play a major role in food security.

As the Minister of Finance, I also recognise the importance of developing the sector with an Agribusiness approach, to facilitate further diversification of this Territory’s economy.

With this strategy, youth will recognise agriculture as a viable business opportunity; they will be engaged, and encouraged to take up careers in agriculture.

I am therefore confident that as our students experience greenhouse technology at work, we will see a new generation of agricultural specialists.

I know the Honourable Minster Dr. Pickering is passionate about this direction. Agribusiness is not an ‘out of the box’ idea, as essentially, this is how our forefathers sustained themselves in the post plantation era.

And while this year’s theme focuses on youth in agriculture, I must recognise all the farmers. You toil daily, contributing to the Territory’s agricultural legacy.

Most, if not all of you, have been dedicated to this industry since you were youth.

It is through your commitment this industry has been sustained.  You are indeed helping to build a better Virgin Islands and for this I want to say THANK YOU!

I also commend Chief Agricultural Officer Mr. Bevin Braithwaite and his team for their role in managing the operations of the Department. The support you provide to this industry is invaluable.

In advance, I congratulate all the winners of the various categories over the next few days. I look forward to speaking with you personally as I visit the booths and view the exhibits.

I want to encourage residents and visitors to come and share in the activities and support this vital sector of our economy.

Remember young people, the future of the Virgin Islands is yours. You must plant the seed you want today to reap the benefits you will see tomorrow.

Congratulations on our Farmers Week celebrations. I encourage all to participate. Enjoy the week’s activities.

Thank you.

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