Empowering St. Maarten through agriculture

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PHILIPSBURG, Sint Maarten — All over St. Maarten there is agricultural farming. Agriculture is a big part of our social and economic culture here. Simple laws can be implemented to empower the population of St. Maarten.

Throughout St. Maarten, you can see banana trees, avocado trees, mangoes, passion fruit, pineapples, papayas, soursop, Noni, lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, kale, lemon/lime, ginger, pumpkins, potatoes, onions, and beets, to name a few. There are also breadfruit and guava trees. I have even seen dragon fruit and strawberries grown here as well.

Dragon fruits cost well over 15 guilders in the stores. Many of the other fruits and vegetables, which are sold in the stores are also grown here. Additionally, local farmers are well versed in the growing of different crops and possess many skills gained over years of experience.

Putting legislation in place to foster better organized agricultural programs would be in the best interest of the country. Agricultural farms can be developed, which would create jobs and lessen produce imports. This would also benefit the country’s economy. Laws can also be implemented to encourage the stores island-wide to purchase locally grown produce from local farmers.

Laws like this can empower the community and allow persons to have an additional avenue for generating revenue. Imagine a scenario where the farmer needs funds, and he has a bunch of bananas, or a whole pumpkin he recently harvested. He can go to the store or the market and sell his surplus so that he can provide for his family.

There is a monthly farmers market, where local farmers come together and sell their produce, and other naturally sourced products. Seeing some of the items on sale shows that St. Maarteners are very resourceful and innovative. However, many people are unaware of these events. Activities like these need to be better promoted and held on a larger scale so that we can better provide for our community. There is also a sense of pride, for both farmer and consumer, when you know that the product was produced locally.

In closing, we have a great commodity here on the island, which is being overlooked. If we implement the right laws, and strategically put the right plans in place, we will see we have had a hidden gem here all along. On St. Maarten, we have many of the agricultural crops that other countries wish they had. There are many ways in which they can be used. We just have to empower our people to see these plans come to fruition.