Crowds flock to Ag Show

Those who have been in the Cayman Islands for the last few decades hearkened back to
humbler beginnings during Wednesday’s 43rd annual Agricultural Show.

The event, perhaps the most popular
and most locally-based annual festival on Grand Cayman,
has certainly come a long way.

“I can recall when the Agriculture
Show was held behind the public library,” Cabinet Secretary Orrett Connor said
during his welcoming speech to the crowd of dignitaries gathered at the
agriculture market site in Lower
Valley. “Each year, we
see the crowds getting larger and larger; we see more and more exhibits.”

“We see more Caymanians becoming
involved in farming and other forms of agriculture, and that can only be a
positive thing.”

The annual festival is a chance for
farmers to show off their wares to an audience of thousands. Dozens of locally
grown plants, trees and herbs – as well as fresh fruits and vegetables are on
sale. Locally raised livestock are also on display and awarded prizes at the
end of Agriculture Week – the week – in the Cayman Islands.

Agriculture Minister Juliana
O’Connor-Connolly told the audience at the fairgrounds that recent economic
hard times in Cayman, and the ensuing government budget problems, have placed a
spotlight on how important it is for the country to become as self-sufficient
as possible.

“In 2008, Cayman imported some $50
million worth – and that’s Cayman Islands
dollars – of food,” Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly said. “$32 million which was paid
was for foodstuffs that we can and we should be producing locally.”

Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly said
government appreciated the fact that Cayman might never be self sustaining. The
largest island in Cayman’s three island group is only 76 square miles – much of
it already developed.

“But we must make the idea of
eating what we grow and growing what we eat a reality rather than just a
slogan,” she said.

The agriculture minister said that
government would look at establishing a national food and nutrition security
policy with an eye toward monitoring local food production and assisting local
farmers.

“This will allow us to set critical
production targets and establish a direction and framework…to enhance
production and output in the agricultural sector,” she said.

Mrs. O’Connor-Connolly said she
recently went on a tour of 14 Grand Cayman
farms and noted that those operations are employing many sophisticated food
production measures aimed at reducing energy costs and growing organic foods.

“There is a conscious move to be
more sustainable in their production methods,” she said of the local farms.

The 43rd annual Agriculture
Show was also the first show attended by new Cayman Islands Governor Duncan
Taylor, who performed the ceremonial bell ringing to officially “open” the
grounds for business.

“I’m a big fan of local produce,”
Mr. Taylor told the crowd, promising to do what he could to support the weekly
market at the grounds which is held on Saturdays in Lower Valley.
“Local produce beats imported produce every time.”

“I’m very happy to give a
commitment that in the many events we’ll be hosting at government house in our
time here…I give a commitment that wherever we can, we will use local produce
ahead of any imported produce for all of those events.”

TOPagshowSTORY

Three-year-old Hugo Johnson takes the reins at the pony rides.
Photo: Brent Fuller

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