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Sejah Farm to create learning center through World Central Kitchen grant | Local News

The nonprofit World Central Kitchen is backing nine agriculture projects in the Virgin Islands.

The organization provides direct financial support, training and volunteer opportunities to revitalize the islands’ economy and food systems, with grants disbursed through its Food Producer Network. The program works to build resilient local food systems and strengthens food security through direct financial support to smallholder farmers and fishers, as well as small food-related businesses and nonprofit organizations, improving their capacity to produce, distribute and sell food at the local level to reduce reliance on food imports.

Joining the network are Healthy Harvest Farm, Joshua Quetel, My Brother’s Workshop and Sugar Brown Farms on St. Thomas and Maldonado’s Fishing, NJ’s Fishing, Rico’s Fish Market, Rodgers’ Farm and Virgin Islands Farmers Alliance on St. Croix.

Also located on St. Croix, Sejah Farm is receiving its second World Central Kitchen grant. Operated by Yvette and Dale Brown, Sejah Farm grows vegetables and raises goats, sheep, poultry and eggs. Maybe you are interested kitchen remodeling houston tx.

Sejah Farm used its first grant to acquire a cold storage unit, with both a walk-in cooler and freezer, as well as a diesel generator to operate the unit in times of emergency. The Browns will use their second grant to create a learning center where local producers can gain the knowledge and skills to grow their business and advance food and nutrition security across the Virgin Islands.

Sejah Farm already works with a group of small farmers whose products they move through their market on a daily basis. Now, with the center, that interaction will expand.

“It’s not on a personal level this time for us, it’s more on a community level,” said Yvette Brown. “We’ll have all the equipment to set up an outdoor learning center for 10 people at a time and it’s going to be open to any farmer on the island who wants to do virtual classes online or any of the workshops and seminars that World Central Kitchen has to offer, any kind of farming class that is beneficial for the small farmers in our community.”

The idea for the center came from conversations with other farmers about learning challenges and information sharing.

It won’t be a grand facility with computer labs and offices, but housed under a tent on the farm.

Virtual World Central Kitchen classes on offer will include a variety of subjects, such as soil management, horticulture and pruning, as well as sharing information from different farmers in the network about techniques they are using on their farms.

“These classes are already there and being offered by World Central Kitchen and other agencies, including the University of the Virgin Islands, so it’s really beneficial for farmers to be able to do their training programs,” she said.

The facility will also be able to facilitate small farming conferences and meetings of approximately 50 people, and will be equipped with a projector and screen, speakers and microphones.

In the territory, the grants will finance capital improvements such as chicken coops, upgraded food packing facilities and irrigation systems. It will also be used to purchase ice machines, motors for fishing boats, lobster traps and other fishing equipment.

In addition to technical workshops to raise production capabilities and enhance commercial operations to increase sales and access to markets, World Central Kitchen assists beneficiaries through its volunteer network composed of local community members and visitors who provide community service to help participants meet their goals.

“Through this network, we have supported 29 small businesses and organizations in the Virgin Islands,” Mikol Hoffman, director of the Food Producer Network, said. “Nearly four years after launching FPN, we have concrete data showing that members of the network can double production and sales within a year of joining the program.”

According to Hoffman, network members are “connecting with food producers from across the Virgin Islands as well as throughout the Caribbean, and are stronger today as a network than they were before individually,”

The new funds are expected to be released within the week, and Brown hopes to be able to order the computers and other equipment to open the center toward the end of February.

“It’s a big investment and we must recognize the work that World Central Kitchen is doing here in the Virgin Islands, plus Puerto Rico and the Bahamas,” said Brown. “They have been here since 2020, and in that short period of time, they have made a significant impact on our farmers, helping them to process from one stage to another financially, and also giving the farmers the training they need.”

The Food Producer Network was established in 2018 in response to the devastating 2017 hurricane season. Since then, $4.1 million has been granted to food producers affected by natural disasters in the Caribbean and Central America. The program expanded to the Virgin Islands in 2020, and has invested nearly half a million dollars in food-related businesses.

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