Thousands attend annual Agriculture Show

From the moment the gates opened at the Stacy Watler Agriculture Pavilion in Lower Valley on Wednesday, the produce market was abuzz as shoppers stocked up on fresh fruits and vegetables.

They were among thousands who turned out for the 49th Annual Agriculture Show, which displayed a cornucopia of Cayman’s finest agricultural products and traditional crafts.

Farmer Hamlin Stephenson, who was selling vegetables, and fruit trees and showing goats at the show, said the recent cool weather has been excellent for his crops.

“The beginning of the year was very, very warm, so we had a lot of insects that would trouble things like cabbage, kale, lettuce,” Mr. Stephenson said. “But, with the cool weather, most of them are disappearing and the tomatoes, with this cool weather, they love it.”

He said the show was shaping up to be another success for the Agricultural Society, and he was pleased that visitors and residents came out to support Cayman’s farmers.

The event lived up to its motto of remembering the past, embracing the present, and planning for the future, with exhibits showcasing Caymanian history and culture, vendors offering fresh produce and lush plants, and educational displays set up by the Agriculture Department.

Farmers proudly displayed their cows, goats, pigs and chickens, many marked with prize-ribbons designating the judges’ approval.

Joy Ebanks, from West Bay Farm, showed off her chickens and goats and said the show was especially good for the children, to get them involved in agriculture early.

Children with painted faces and carrying cotton candy delighted in the petting zoo and pony rides, and were just as pleased with the livestock, especially the piglets and baby goats.

Food-lovers lined up to get a taste of Caymanian delicacies, such as turtle, conch, lobster, spiced beef and jerk chicken, and art-lovers perused the many thatch crafts and paintings for sale.

Crowds filled the stands at the main arena to watch riders show off their horsemanship skills, while others enjoyed the entertainment on the grandstand: music and dance performances, fashion shows, and, of course, the beautiful baby competition.

Agricultural Society president George Smith said the arena activities were “bigger and better” this year, and the carnival-esque atmosphere was heightened with the addition of games for children and a mechanical bull.

“The fact that we are here celebrating the 49th show not only confirms our dedication, but it’s a testament to just how far we have come,” Mr. Smith said.

During the opening ceremony, Agriculture Minister Kurt Tibbetts said the government has sought to reinvigorate the agriculture sector with the ultimate goal of ensuring that the people of the Cayman Islands have access to nutritious and affordable food. As the “culinary capital of the Caribbean” and with the growing “food to fork” movement, the agriculture sector is also an important contributor to tourism, he added.

“I trust that the fine examples of local fruit, vegetables, and livestock product here today will demonstrate that farming isn’t just a job, it is a way of life and a supremely rewarding occupation,” Mr. Tibbetts said. “I hope that today’s event will stimulate an ‘agri-preneurial’ spirit.”