Minister with responsibility for agriculture, Dr. Natalio Wheatley has responded to criticisms from at-Large ministers about not involving the sister islands enough, pointing to the Ministry's investment in the development of agriculture in Anegada by allocating lands for farming.
When asked how the Ministry will go about selecting the farmers for the new initiative, Dr. Wheatley stated that a strategic application process will be in effect to help make the decision about who are the most suitable candidates.
He noted that it will be a fair and effective process that will not lead to the disenfranchisement of any farmers in Anegada.
In addition, water supply is a critical component in any large-scale farming project, and Dr. Wheatley has suggested that similar to other government projects, there are possibilities for subsidies that would aid farmers in managing the expenses.
However, Dr. Wheatley was not able to provide full details on the breakdown of subsidies that will be available to Anegada farmers.
During Agriculture month, Dr. Wheately pointed out that groceries are expensive which is an indication that food is an important economic driver and urged Anegadians to fully utilize the agricultural opportunities that are being extended to them.
One example of the farming potential of Anegada is demonstrated through the efforts of Mrs. Henrietta Wheatley, who has been actively farming for the past 25 years and has been growing fruit trees including cherries, soursop, limes, bananas, plantains as well as some other healthy delicious crops like beets, carrots, cabbages, parsley, celery, okra, spinach, pumpkin, kale, and watermelon.
The investment in agriculture through the dedication of farmlands will not only assist award-winning farmers like Mrs. Wheatley but will inspire entrepreneurship in the youth.
Dr. Wheatley has acknowledged that farming and agricultural ambitions are not predominant in the youth across the Virgin Islands
. He stated at the ceremony that “Certainly our young people, when they think about careers, agriculture and fishing are not at the forefront enough, and these are the industries that will help us to diversify our economy”.
However, he hopes that with interventions like providing lands for agriculture, and early exposure, there will be some positive shifts in the attitudes towards farming.