ST. CROIX — On the outskirts of Frederiksted on Monday, the fruits of the community’s labor was celebrated at two community gardens planted over the years.
Young Bloods Gardens and Market along with Frederiksted Community Gardens were bustling with activity as Rotary Club St. Croix West hosted a small group of visitors to celebrate the end of its $46,000 Rotary International Global Grant that launched and sustained both projects over the past three years.
Most days, David Stout makes the town-to-town journey from Gallow’s Bay to the Foster Land area on Emancipation Drive to work in his garden, and Monday was no different.
Stout and his wife, Laverne, are among the half-dozen members who have been growing small crops like peppers, cherries, kale, eggplants, greens, sage, basil, thyme, okra, tomatoes and lettuce.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s something that we love,” Laverne Stout said as she dug into the ground to transplant a tea bush. She said most of the people in the garden have always had some type of interest in gardening, so despite challenges with the water supply, bugs or other farming woes, they remain committed to the goal.
Rotary Club President Cheru Ross said she stands proud as a representative of all the past presidents that had the vision to put in the work for the grant and projects before they were launched in earnest in 2018.
Community Gardens Chairperson Frandelle Gerard said the garden property has significant historical value as it was the longest standing slave village on island, and in 1760s had housed the largest number of Africans.
“It is indeed sacred ground and this project was started in 2010 and over the years we have been supported by a number of public/private partnerships until the hurricanes hit in 2017,” she said. “Since, we were able to restart with the help of Rotary West and Rotary Cape Carol, Florida, we have had great success.” She said the property is anchored on each corner by huge tamarind trees and is much more than just a garden, but a place of health and healing.
“We gather here the last Sunday every month at 5:30 p.m. for meditation, reflection and gathering with the elders of the community among the ancestors,” she said.
Young Bloods Market and Community Gardens Chairman Wilfredo Boulogne said he is humbled by the outpouring of support from the community and the Rotary Club.
“We are planting everything out here and battling everything like bad weather and everything else,” he said.
“But it is really about community. Everybody who is a part of this is involved, they were raised here and want to see better for our community, and we are proud of it all.”
Boulogne said the market stand is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and he also serves cooked food from the garden from 1 to 3 p.m.
Rotary District Governor nominee Deborah Howell said while the grant is at its end, the community partners are committed to seeing the gardens flourish.
“This is not the end, we are committed and embedded in this community and to the people and I encourage residents to support the gardens for their produce needs,” she concluded.