My recent excursion to St. Croix and the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute provided me with the opportunity to meet and spend time with an incredible group of young men and women who were taking part in a two month training program in the study of sustainable farming methods.
The program is called the Ridge to Reef Beneficial Farmer Training program because students are instructed in lessons of sustainability that consider the environment from the depths of the ocean to the lofty peaks of the mountains of their island habitat.
Priceless Investments in the Future of Organic Farming
These young, resident farmers in-training gained the knowledge and experience of what it takes to manage productive organic farm systems that yield sustainable food crops without creating negative impacts on neighboring ecosystems or watersheds.
The course of study is in-depth and comprehensive with instruction covering various aspects of organic crop production, renewable energy systems, permaculture design, composting, integrated pest management, bush skills, sustainable construction, agriculture economics, animal husbandry, and other sustainable agriculture related topics.
Instruction was offered in a variety of formats, from classroom style lectures and hands-on training, to field trips around the island, group assignments, guest speakers, and individual projects. While the sustainable education provided was detailed and intensive, it was clear that the students absolutely loved and cherished the skills and experiences they were cultivating!
Sustainable Connections Run Strong and Deep!
It was also evident that the lessons had really sunk in and that these sustainable scholars were viewing their environment from a fresh, new perspective that placed importance on factors that used to be of less significance. For example, one student commented on a making the trek all the way back to his cabana just to unplug an electronic device that was left charging, so as to conserve the draw on the farm’s solar energy supply.
When I met them with a little over a week remaining in their residency they were just beginning to reflect with remorse that the program was quickly winding down and coming to a conclusion. It was clear that they had developed close bonds with Ben, Nate, and all of the instructors and members of the Creque Dam Farm family.
They had also established contacts and built friendships with their fellow students and visitors to the farm that will endure long after their island time has ended. If you’re interested in a closer look at the Ridge to Reef experience check out Dez’s interesting chronicle over at “From Ridge to Reef and Back to the City.” I can’t express enough how talented, intelligent, motivated, and cool all of these gals and guys are!
Thanks and Well Wishes to Everyone from Ridge to Reef
It was inspiring and so much fun to meet and spend time with each of the Ridge to Reef students. A big Veggie Gardening Tips thank you goes out to Mere, Mandy, Ben, Marshall, Judith, Ashley, Patrick, Dez, James and Ryan! If your travels ever take you to Central Pennsylvania be sure to look me up and stop by.
Thanks for your interest and commitment to sustainable agriculture, congrats on completing the Ridge to Reef program, and best wishes in applying all of the skills, knowledge, and experiences that you have gained during your time at the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute!
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