Food systems team helps rebuild hurricane-torn food system in US Virgin Islands

December 25, 2020

Technical support from FFED’s Food Systems Team is helping rebuild the local food system in the US Virgin Islands, devastated by hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017.

Five people at picnic table having meeting.
FFED’s food systems team meets with islanders to map local food systems assets.

Local emergency funding allowed islanders to engage the community food systems team in 2018. On initial visits, the team developed support and understanding of the hurricanes’ impacts on local farmers. Then in January 2019, the territory hosted FFED’s Local Food Leader and Community Food Systems trainings. Island residents working in food systems used this training to continue to build capacity. AgMRC and the Southern Extension Risk Management Center funded the workshops.

Following these efforts, the FFED food systems team partnered with a local non-profit, the Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition. They developed a food systems assessment to map assets and chart a path to rebuild a self-sufficient food system for producers and consumers. FEMA funded travel and supported creation of a hurricane preparedness checklist. This resource will help local farmers build resilience against future weather events.

USDA grant supports next steps

Two women at farmers market.
Sommer Sibilly-Brown of the Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition buys leafy greens from a vendor at a local farmers market.

Good Food Coalition executive director Sommer Sibilly-Brown recently leveraged this plan to earn a USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant of $414,480. The project includes development of a virtual farmers market and a farmer’s technology support program. The virtual market will increase economic opportunities for local producers living in the USVI.

In a recent email to Long, Sibilly-Brown said, “I am so happy to say that the seeds you helped plant and nurture in bringing the VI into the future are taking root and I truly appreciate your support and leadership. This grant would not be possible without you all.”

The Community Food Systems program is a collaboration between the Farm, Food and Enterprise Development and Community and Economic Development Programs of extension. CFS partners with communities to develop and design their local and regional food systems. The process is devoted to long-term community empowerment and lasting impacts.

Learn more about the Virgin Islands project and others on the CFS page under the Research and Previous Projects tab.