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As a result of the influence and support of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), the island of St. Maarten will experience its first ever agricultural trade show on the 11th and 12th of November this year.
Rose Ann Rumnit, Director of the St. Maarten Agricultural Society made the announcement during the official opening ceremony of the 54th Denbigh Agricultural Show held in May Pen, Clarendon on Saturday (August 5).
“Ever since Dr. Leroy Santiago came to our island two years ago on behalf of the President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society, Senator Norman Grant, we were blessed with this visit which turned out to be something significant for St. Marteen,” she said, explaining that Dr. Santiago, a Jamaican Agricultural scientist, had helped to influence the resurgence of agricultural production in the island and the plans to host the show. “I’m very pleased to be here today because without the support of Jamaica we would not be able to do this and through these linkages with the Jamaica Agricultural Society, the Government of St. Maarten has agreed to approve 90 per cent of the funding for our first farmer’s vocational training school after realizing that your island has been backing agricultural development in St. Maarten. The school will be headed by Dr. Santiago and myself, and of course people are getting excited,” she said.
Ms. Rumnit noted that the fair would feature a historical village. “We’re going to have about 100 little huts built where all sectors of society will participate to portray agriculture in its previous form. We have already acquired a parcel of 36 acres of land on which to build the historical village, which will become a permanent location. The historical village is also aimed at helping the youth find themselves,” she said.
“At the fair we’re also going to have a display of some of our animals and of course we’re going to have an area where we’re going to be doing some traditional cooking, making johnny cakes and bread in drums. We’re also going to be having large coal pots where we’re going to be frying fish. We’re going to be roasting whole sheep goats and pigs. We’re going to be doing a lot of cultural games and bringing back some of the nostalgia that was lost,” she explained.
Ms. Rumnit pointed out that some 100 St. Maarten families who did backyard gardening had been identified as well as other families, who were not from St. Maarten, and who were doing vegetable production.
Some of these crops she noted included cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, sorrel and guavaberry, a plant which is indigenous to the island.
These she said would be displayed at the show along with the launching of the guavaberry juice and the promotion of lime and orange skin in a more useful capacity.
She also informed that the island had moved into chicken rearing with the recent establishment of the first professional poultry cage.
Also, a number of international guests have been invited to the show. “We have invited some of the international guests that you have here at your Denbigh show.and we have also invited the whole CARICOM Region, and of course Jamaica is the main guest of our fair. We are really promoting the event as a family event, especially a Caribbean family event and we are also looking forward to the Queen of Holland to attend the fair during the last days of her reign,” she said.
Ms. Rumnit noted that on her return to St. Maarten preparations for the show would commence and that the Agricultural Society was looking forward to the participation of the Jamaican business community there.
The Director pointed out that agriculture was now becoming the mainstay of the island, taking over from tourism as the government sought to revive the sector, particularly using modern technology.
“Its important that we get this particular help right now because this will take us into another level and once we get the modern technology going, we will be able to turn the whole country around from a 100 per cent import community to 100 per cent self supplying,” she further said.
She extended appreciation not only to the JAS but also to the Minister of Agriculture and Lands, Roger Clarke and the Jamaican people as a whole for their willingness to collaborate with her island on this initiative.
“Sustainable agriculture is definitely taking a kick-off and we have so far registered 67 farmer families who never really left agriculture,” she said.Ms. Rumnit also thanked the JAS for their donation of a 20-foot container of water to the St. Maarten Agricultural Society, which will be sold and the proceeds used to assist the Society in other agricultural projects.
“On a regular basis at the end of each month we also have a small agriculture fair whose purpose is to get the people back into agricultural production and not just talk about it. We’ll do it at different locations on both the Dutch and French quarter of the island and we hope to dispel the myth in St. Maarten about agriculture being only for slaves and Haitians and show that agriculture is something that can make money, create employment and reduce youth delinquency,” she said.