The Ministry of Agriculture on Nevis applauded Mrs. Emontine Thompson, a farmer of Brown Hill, who walked away with first place in the Off-Island category for her 11th consecutive win at the 49th Annual Agriculture and Food Fair (AgriFest) of the U.S. Virgin Islands held in St. Croix Feb. 15-17.
“I offer her congratulations on behalf of the Minister and Ministry of Agriculture for her 11th consecutive win. What it says to us is that the island’s farmers have the capacity to grow not only abundantly but excellent quality agricultural produce,” Mr. Huey Sargeant, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture said while speaking to the Department of Information Monday.
Mrs. Thompson and her husband William represented Nevis at the exhibition themed “Trendy in 2020.”
“We encourage all farmers to emulate the success of Mr. and Mrs. Thompson and we encourage as well consistent production in order to feed our population,” he said.
Mrs. Thompson who spoke to the department Feb. 21, noted she has entered the contest 13 times and won 11, recalling when she first entered at the urging of Mr. Pearlievan Wilkin, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture on Nevis, to showcase her products at the fair.
She said she did not win on her first attempt, attributing her loss to ignorance of the criteria. The third year she won the top prize and has never looked back. Mrs. Thompson says she pays particular attention to the quality of her produce because she realises that if she wants to win, quality is key.
“While I am preparing for the agrifair in St. Croix I prepare myself. I make sure I have good quality food because it’s not any and anybody coming to judge. These people that they have judging is people who deal with agriculture itself, so they know the quality of the food,” she said. “One of them told me one time ‘You are going to win again next year.’ I say why do you say that? Are you prophesying? She said ‘No, but you have good quality food.’ So, then I recognised then that the quality of the food matters. I grow food all the time but for the competition, I must have quality food but if I don’t have it and I get it from somebody I let them know that I want top quality. It’s got to be quality otherwise I don’t want it.”
Emontine, as she is affectionately known, says her farming involves long hours, sometimes leaving home at 6 a.m. and returning home at 7 p.m., especially when the contest nears.
“You have to make sure that you clean them up. You have to make sure that the garden is clean. You have to see that they are not bitten by pets… You have to really protect that. So, it’s really long hours and again if you are making jams and jellies it really takes a lot,” she said.
The award-winning farmer, who is also an agroprocessor, says she also takes along her preserves to the contest.
“I do carry Sarsaparilla. I do carry essence. I do sugar cake in different colours, and these are things, when you do that, people look out for coming from the islands. And cassava bread, that again is another thing they really look out for,” she said.
Now that she is widely recognised at the agriculture festival, she said, “They really support me there! They really support!”
Mrs. Thompson thanked all who continue to assist her, including her husband, family members, supporters, friends and Mr. Sargeant.