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Dr. David Hall’s Tenure Marks a New Chapter in UVI’s Agricultural Evolution



Dr. David Hall, esteemed outgoing President of UVI, graces Agrifest 2024. Captured on Sat. Feb. 17, 2024, courtesy of Gov’t House.

As the curtain falls on his esteemed career, Dr. David Hall prepares to bid adieu to his role as President of the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), marking his final appearance at the Agriculture and Food Fair in an official capacity. His retirement, slated for just a few months away, signifies the end of an influential era in UVI’s history.

During the opening ceremony of Agrifest 2024, Dr. Hall expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the Virgin Islands community for allowing him the honor to contribute to this “special and sacred industry.” Under his leadership, UVI has played a pivotal role in energizing Agrifest, highlighting the university’s commitment to advancing agricultural education and innovation within the territory through the launch of pioneering associate and bachelor of science degrees in agriculture.

Dr. Hall’s contributions extend beyond his presidency. As co-chair of the Food and Farm Council, a key component of the territory’s Agriculture Plan, he has been instrumental in elevating the profile of agriculture in the Virgin Islands. His humorous admission of not having grown anything personally in the last three years was coupled with a hopeful message about the enduring impact of the initiatives he has championed.

Tributes to Dr. Hall’s legacy were abundant, with Commissioner of Agriculture Louis Petersen and Senate President Novelle Francis acknowledging his visionary leadership and lamenting his departure. Dr. Hall was honored with gifts from local artisans, including a mahogany clock from Mr. Petersen, symbolizing the timeless nature of his contributions to UVI and the agricultural sector.

Reflecting on his tenure, Dr. Hall shared his pride in the university’s enhanced focus on agriculture, from the establishment of the School of Agriculture to the expanded academic offerings that now obviate the need for external participation in the fair. His personal involvement in the Agriculture Plan and the Food and Farm Council stands as a testament to his commitment to fostering sustainable agricultural practices and education in the Virgin Islands.

Dr. Hall looks forward to witnessing the continued growth and evolution of UVI’s agricultural programs, a legacy of his dedication to nurturing the seeds of innovation and education for the benefit of future generations in the Virgin Islands.

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Governor Bryan Advocates for Health-Focused Food Stamp Program and Strong Support for USVI Agriculture in New Farm Bill



During a pivotal session at the National Governors Association’s 2024 Winter Meeting in Washington, Governor Albert Bryan of the U.S. Virgin Islands took center stage to voice the pressing needs of the territory’s agriculture sector and propose innovative solutions. As the co-chair of the Community Investment Task Force, Bryan emphasized the unique challenges and opportunities that the U.S. Virgin Islands faces, particularly the stark reality that a mere 3% of the food consumed in the territory is produced locally.

Governor Bryan has ambitiously set a target to elevate this figure to 35% by 2040, aiming to tackle the high costs and accessibility issues surrounding food for island residents. The path to achieving this goal is fraught with obstacles, including the scarcity of crop insurance, the harsh realities of climate change, and the devastation left by hurricanes in 2017 that severely damaged the territory’s infrastructure and natural resources. Bryan’s advocacy for the upcoming federal Farm Bill to include measures that bolster the agricultural resurgence in the Virgin Islands was a focal point of his address.

Highlighting the significance of recognizing and integrating U.S. territories in national efforts, Bryan remarked, “Part of this is about inclusiveness, remembering that the territories are part of America, they’re your America.” He pointed out the current exclusion of Virgin Islands farmers from federal crop insurance programs as a critical area for reform.

Bryan applauded the efforts made since the 2018 Farm Bill, such as the Local Agriculture Market Program and the creation of regional food business centers supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). These initiatives have been instrumental in enhancing local food systems and resilience, further buoyed by the financial backing from the American Rescue Plan Act.

In a move to address broader societal issues, Governor Bryan praised the USDA’s summer EBT program, which ensures children receiving school lunch assistance continue to have access to meals during the summer break. He underscored the multifaceted impact of poverty, which affects both the economic and mental well-being of children and families. Advocating for a revision of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Bryan proposed a transformative approach where benefits would be restricted to healthier food options. This initiative aims to pivot consumer habits away from processed and unhealthy foods towards more nutritious choices, thereby fostering a healthier nation.

As anticipation grows for the new farm bill, set to replace the expiring legislation this September, Governor Bryan’s vision for the future of agriculture in the U.S. Virgin Islands is clear. He seeks comprehensive support for the territory’s farmers and ranchers, as well as initiatives to engage the youth with agriculture, emphasizing the importance of reconnecting with the land as a fundamental aspect of life.

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Celebrating Agricultural Excellence at the 52nd St. Croix Agrifest



At the forefront of Caribbean agricultural excellence, the 52nd Annual Agriculture and Food Fair in St. Croix concluded on a high note, with Steven Charles, Fransisco Dorado, and Charles Burton receiving top honors as Beekeeper, Livestock Farmer, and Crop Farmer of the year, respectively. The fair has evolved into a premier agricultural showcase, attracting participants from across the Caribbean, including St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua & Barbuda, and Grenada, to display their products and share in the spirit of agricultural innovation and sustainability.

The event was graced by notable figures such as BVI Premier Dr. Natalio Wheatley, who highlighted the critical importance of sustainability in Caribbean agriculture. The Department of Agriculture lauded the honorees for embodying this year’s theme, “Agriculture: Our Future and So Much More,” through their substantial contributions to the agricultural sector of the territory.

Praise was also extended by Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, who recognized the honorees for their unwavering dedication and pivotal role in advancing the territory’s agricultural frontiers.

Steven Charles, celebrated for his decade-long commitment to beekeeping, aims to expand his operations to enable honey exports from St. Croix. Fransisco Dorado, celebrated for his lifelong dedication to farming, has made significant contributions to the livestock sector in the USVI. Charles Burton, originally from the Dominican Republic and the 2024 Crop Farmer of the Year, acknowledged the local government’s increased involvement in agriculture, which has supported his and other farmers’ endeavors.

In a touching tribute, this year’s Agrifest Farmers Market was dedicated to Gloria Florita Neil-Felix, a longstanding participant and former Farmer of the Year, remembered for her dedication and bountiful harvests over three decades.

The fair also honored Melba Diana Williams and Avril Williams for their service and dedication as food vendors, and the livestock pavilion was named in honor of the Four H Teen Ambassadors, celebrating their fifteen years of dedication to the fair’s success.

A significant moment at the fair was the acknowledgment of Dr. David Hall’s retirement as president of the University of the Virgin Islands, marking the end of an era in the territory’s agricultural education and development.

Governor Albert Bryan Jr. emphasized the theme of sustainability and agricultural self-sufficiency, outlining government initiatives to support farmers and increase local agricultural production by 33% as part of Vision 2040 and the Agriculture Plan. He encouraged Virgin Islanders to engage more deeply with the agricultural sector, underscoring the importance of sustainability and support for the next generation of farmers.

The annual Agrifest, held at the Rudolph Shulterbrandt Agricultural Complex in Estate Lower Love, St. Croix, continues to be a beacon of agricultural prowess, innovation, and community in the Caribbean.

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Launch of the Premier Island Food Systems Summit on St. Croix



Marking a significant milestone in the advancement of food sustainability, the Virgin Islands Good Food (VIGF) organization is proud to announce the launch of the first-ever Island Food Systems Summit. This groundbreaking event is scheduled to unfold at the University of the Virgin Islands Albert A. Sheen Campus on St. Croix, running from February 19 to 21, 2024.

This summit emerges hot on the heels of the 52nd Annual Agricultural and Food Fair, wrapping up on February 19, and aims to forge a dynamic and inclusive forum. Stakeholders from across the US Virgin Islands, the broader Caribbean, and the mainland United States are set to converge, with the goal of fostering a resilient and prosperous territorial food system through shared insights and collaborative efforts.

A roster of esteemed participants, including officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the National Black Food & Justice Alliance, the University of Iowa Extension, and other esteemed partners, will engage in panel discussions. Virgin Islands’ own agricultural community and food producers will stand shoulder to shoulder with these guests, addressing key issues such as the launch of a USDA Regional Food Business Center, enhancing cross-sector partnerships, bolstering farmer initiatives, crafting effective disaster response measures, and promoting youth involvement in food sustainability.

Adding a flavorful twist to the proceedings, the summit will also host “learning dinners” at select local establishments on Tuesday evening, before reaching its zenith with a gala benefit dinner. This finale will be orchestrated by the acclaimed St. Croix chef, Ralph Motta, promising an unforgettable culinary experience.

In an admirable show of support, VIGF is covering the travel expenses for farmers traveling from the St. Thomas/St. John area to attend the summit. Furthermore, through the Summit Scholarships program, VIGF has graciously funded the $100 event ticket for over 30 farmers across the territory, underlining its commitment to inclusive participation.

Backed by a diverse array of sponsors, including the V.I. Department of Tourism and the Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network, the summit is a beacon of the region’s ongoing efforts to enhance agriculture, conserve natural resources, and fortify food security. This event not only symbolizes a leap forward in the Virgin Islands’ journey towards food security and sustainability but also highlights VIGF’s dedication to cultivating a vibrant, equitable, and sustainable local food ecosystem.

For detailed information on the 3-day agenda, ticket acquisition, and more, visit the Summit’s dedicated website at

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