Event showcases locally grown produce, locally made products

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ST. CROIX - Farmers and vendors across the territory are preparing to put their local products on sale as the Agriculture Department hosts its Virgin Fresh Value Added Vendorama during the next two weekends.

Project coordinator Audrey Browne said the event is in partnership with farmers and processors on St. Thomas and St. Croix and will feature products that have been made using fresh, locally grown produce.

"The primary goal of this event is to showcase vendors and locally made, processed or packaged food items," she said. "It is not only beneficial for the farmers but also for the residents to learn about all the many ways they can use some of the local produce."

Browne said the event also is designed to encourage the increased production, sale and consumption of locally produced agricultural products. Items for sale at the market will include jams, jellies, sauces, herbal condiments and seasonings, fruit juices, smoothies, cakes, tarts and other pastries, honey and sugar cane juice.

"You will see the innovation of how our farmers may have nice mangoes and add value by making it a great mango chutney, or even use some sweet egg fruit and add value to make a delicious juice," she said. "There are so many opportunities to build on products when it comes to produce."

On St. Thomas, the market day will take place Saturday at the Sanderilla Thomas Bungalow in the Rothschild Francis Market Square, and on St. Croix at the market day will be July 26 at the Rudolph Shulterbrandt Agriculture Complex.

Both market day events will be from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and are open to the entire community.

Agriculture Commissioner Louis Petersen, Jr. said the event supports small agribusiness development, marketing and economic development in the territory through the Virgin Fresh Marketing Campaign.

"It is our hope that the Value Added Vendorama will generate sales for our producers while building long-term relationships with consumers," he said in a statement Government House released Thursday.

Browne said Thursday a number of vendors already are signed up to be a part of the event, but there is still time for others who are interested to join the market day event.

This is the second year the Agriculture Department has put on the event, and Browne said discussions have taken place about possibly increasing the event to two times a year.

"These are the events that help build a healthy community, and we are really excited about it," she said. "We want the residents to come out and get their favorite value fresh items, bring the children for some fun and games and enjoy the music that we will provide."

Information about grants available to farmers and vendors to help with value added products, marketing, packaging and exports also will be available.

For more information or to sign up to be a part of the value added market, contact Mary Bertie at 774-5182 on St. Thomas or Browne at 778-0997 ext. 228 on St. Croix.

- Contact reporter Fiona Stokes at 714-9149 or email fstokes@dailynews.vi.

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