Leonard's Best Fresh Farm is 'farm team of the year' Bordeaux Rastafari Agricultural and Cultural Fair set for this weekend


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ST. THOMAS - Charles Leonard gets bored easily.

A Vietnam veteran, he worked as an aircraft mechanic for sea planes and a taxi driver, and he has been farming for more than 30 years on St. Thomas.

Farming about 2 acres of land leased from the government, just down the hill from the Bordeaux Farmer's Market, he grows a little of everything and is always adding something new to his enterprise.

He is a beekeeper, he raises chickens for eggs and meat, and he just bought a female goat he hopes to breed and milk. He grows every kind of fruit, vegetable and herb and takes full advantage of the year-round growing season.

Leonard's Best Fresh Farm has been named "farm team of the year" for the We Grow Food 17th annual Bordeaux Rastafari Agricultural and Cultural Fair, along with his helper, Jeanne Fatie Deision, and his 12-year-old daughter, Brittney.

Leonard, who said he is "over 70," jokes about being worried for his health.

This latest honor is the third he's received in the last two years. He won crop farmer of the year for the 2012 and 2013 St. Thomas-St. John Agriculture and Food Fair at the University of the Virgin Islands. He said they want to name the Carnival food and cultural fair after him as well.

"I'm a little afraid I'm going to kick the bucket," he jokes.

It is no surprise his peers want to honor him, however. He is an excellent role model for up-and-coming farmers, continuing to learn and expand his business into new areas.

He is very resourceful, and takes advantage of every workshop, training session or conference offered in the territory.

"Whenever anything is free, I go to it," he said.

He is currently the only carpentry student at the Wheatley Skills Center. He enrolled in the public school to learn more about building so he can build a better chicken coop and other structures for his farm.

By participating in government-sponsored field trips, he has visited about six different farms all over the United States, learning about everything from irrigation to manure fertilizer.

He volunteered to be part of an experiment with Fintrac, which planted 250 scotch bonnet pepper plants in a very small area using a unique raised bed system.

Nothing goes to waste on Leonard's farm.

A neighbor's dog recently killed 38 of his chickens. Being a fair and reasonable man, he talked to his neighbor, who agreed to buy new chicks to replace the ones killed. Not wanting to throw away the dead birds, he decided to plant fruit trees and threw two chickens into each hole.

"That's fertilizer," he said. "I try to think of ways to use everything."

Mangos that drop to the ground are picked up immediately to prevent the worms from turning to flies and spoiling the fruit still on the trees. He feeds the mangos to the chickens, who leave behind a perfectly cleaned seed, which is then planted and grafted and sold.

He was instrumental in getting a dam built by the V.I. Agricultural Department, catching the rain water that flows down a gut along the Bordeaux hillside.

After years of pressuring the government, a well was also built near his farm. Both resources are available to all the farmers who lease government farm land in Bordeaux.

"For years, I would go to these workshops on marketing and selling to restaurants, and afterward I would go up to the commissioner and say 'that's nice, but we need water,'" he said. "You can do all the marketing you want, it's like putting the cart before the horse, we need water."

Beekeeping is one of Leonard's passions. He has 10 hives now, but wants to expand to 50 hives in the near future. His daughter helps him with the bees and goes with him on "bee jobs" to collect and remove bee hives in unwanted places.

His helpmate Deision keeps him going strong.

"She works day and night," he said.

Deision came on board seven years ago to help Leonard with the chickens, but she does a lot more than that. In preparation for the fair this weekend, the two of them cracked 70 coconuts and she stayed up all night making coconut oil to sell.

Leonard will have two booths at the fair this year and will be selling fruit, vegetables, honey, eggs, tea bush, herbs, potted plants and fruit trees.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

The 17th annual Bordeaux Rastafari Agricultural and Cultural Fair will be held Saturday and Sunday, providing healthy, fresh food, locally made crafts, live entertainment and activities for the whole family.

This year's fair will feature a number of food demonstrations, farm tours and music.

The V.I. Energy Office will be presenting a new solar system donated to the fairgrounds to run all electricity needs at the facility.

The fair is alcohol-free, and no outside vendors will be allowed.

The entrance fee is $3 before 5 p.m. Children 12 and younger are free.

The Reggae in the Mountains live concert will take place both nights at the fair, starting at 5 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the gate.

All proceeds benefit We Grow Food, a local nonprofit organization to develop agriculture on St. Thomas.

For more information contact 244-4229.Saturday

10 a.m.: DJ Dilli Fingas

11 a.m.: All Stars Steel Band

Noon: Opening Prayer

12:15 p.m.: Farm Team of the Year - Jeanne "Fatie" Deision, Charles and Brittney Leonard

12:30 p.m.: CSA Community Support of Agriculture, Yvette Brown of Sejah Farms

12:45 p.m.: Award honorees

12:55 p.m.: DJ Dilli Fingas

2 p.m.: Wachanga Drummers

2:20 p.m.: Youth Award presentation

2:30 p.m.: Konyah's Poetry Korner

3 p.m.: Afrikan Fashion Show

3:30 p.m.: Echo People

4:30 p.m.: DJ Dilli Fingas

5 p.m. until: WGFI/Reggae in the Mountains Live Concert Featuring: Judah & Princess, Miko, Bassali, Nero, Tribe, Soulji Karrado, Sekemnah, Unity Band, Dj. Dilli Fingas, Jahman, Nuby Dan, Sister Joyce, Ras Batch

Sunday

10 a.m.: DJ Dilli Fingas

11 a.m.: Steel Band - Pan Round the Neck

12:45 p.m.: Opening Prayer Welcome Remarks WGFI Malak

12:55 p.m.: Kwabena Skit

1:15 p.m.: Cultural Skit

1:40 p.m.: DJ Dilli Fingas

2 p.m.: Ras Bobby (Herbs & Chakras)

2:25 p.m.: Allen Haynes

2:55 p.m.: Mungu Nile Dancers

3:10 p.m.: Konyah's Poetry Korner

3:45 p.m.: Lockhart Elementary Dolphineers

4 p.m.: Queens of the Earth Princess Dancers

4:15 p.m.: African Dancing

4:30 p.m.: DJ Dilli Fingas

5 p.m.: WGFI/Reggae in the Mountains Live Concert feat.

Ras Kabie, Jah Rising Sun Ras Kareem, V.I. Idol winner Elva Escobar, Abjah, Black Mahogany Band, Akingtafari, Kaida, Empress Ruth, Ras Puma and Midnite Band

Demonstrations:

- V.I. Energy Office Solar at Works, Energy Office Booth lower fair grounds.

- Live food preparation - 12:30 p.m. Saturday, V's Health Deligh with Vivian Thomas in the Demo Kitchen.

- Live food preparation - 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Love Livin with Dianna Love in the Demo Kitchen.

- Ital dubbing - using a Yabba pot on a three stone, throughout fair grounds.

- Chlorophyll making - 1:30 p.m. Sunday, with Brother Wade in the Demo Kitchen.

- Tofu making - 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, in the Demo Kitchen.

- Composting - 1:30 p.m. Saturday, UVI-CES Dale Morton.

Farm Tours

Including drip irrigation, terrace making, and bee keeping.

Saturday - 11 a.m. Sparks

Sunday - 11 a.m. Sparks, 3 p.m. Charles

Family Activity Center

Ongoing craft stations featuring clay, planting, face painting, coloring and unity art project and much more.

Saturday

10 a.m. - 11 a.m. Pictograph painting

11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. Turn your trash to treasures picture frames and jewelry making

1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. Fabric painting with plant based materials

3 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Basket weaving

Sunday

10 a.m. - 11 a.m. Mosaic art

1 p.m. - 2 p.m. Recycling natural & man-made materials to create art

Sista Ann Francis and Coco Palm Painting

2 p.m. - 3 p.m. Jewelry making with local seeds

3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. T-shirt art

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