by Kayla Watson, Southern IPM Center Director of Communication
Recently, SIPMC Co-director, Dr. Danesha Seth Carley along with Program Manager, Wendy Britton, traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands with a very specific purpose. Spending the majority of their time in St. Croix, they were able to use their time to better understand how the Southern IPM Center can enhance IPM practices to better understand area-specific challenges and opportunities.
“Sitting and having a cup of coffee with folks from other walks of life can change your perspective on what is taken for granted,” Danesha adds.
Their guide, Associate Professor, Extension Pest Management Specialist, and Pesticide Safety Education Program (PSEP) Coordinator, Dr. Amy Dreves, of the University of the Virgin Islands, led the pair as they experienced a taste of the day-to-day life of Extension agents and growers in the Caribbean.
Inspired by Amy
Amy’s passion for her work is something that will remain with the travelers long after their trip has ended. Arriving at her position just before the onset of Hurricane Maria, it is evident that Amy goes well beyond her job description, and that her generosity extends to her personal ethics, morals, and overall character. She frequently engages in acts of kindness that are ultimately taking care of her neighbors far beyond assisting them with pest management issues.
Danesha observes, “There is such a great need for her experience and knowledge, and she does it with the biggest open heart.”
Ibo, a Rostafarian grower, quickly became a major hallmark of the trip as he showed the group around his farm. While walking around, Ibo proudly displayed the crops that he works hard to produce, and in some cases, plucked fruit right off the plant to share the tastes of his farm–a few of which they had never heard of or tasted before.
Though growers on the island have limited resources, their generous and positive spirit was a theme that repeated over and over, displayed and interwoven into the narrative of the island agriculture. One grower in particular encompassed a particularly inspiring sense of community by directly producing eggplants for a nearby hospital, the local farmers market, and for schools.
Danesha mentions how rewarding it was to work with and meet Ibo and the other growers.
“One of the biggest highlights of the trip was meeting people from a different culture with the same purpose — to advance sustainable agriculture and reduce risk with pest management strategies.”
Despite the overwhelmingly positive disposition, there are still many obstacles that growers on the U. S. Virgin Islands must continue to overcome and work through. Two years after Maria, the effect of the hurricane can be seen and felt around the island as there some locations are still without power. Some roads are crumbling; Other roads are solid, but are without lines. Additionally, there are limited resources available due to their location.
Through our Underserved Audiences Signature Program, the Southern IPM Center partners with areas that have limited resources, such as the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. It is our goal to elevate the work that is already being done while also supporting long-term projects in a way that is best for their needs and their community. This trip is just the beginning of a strong partnership between the USVI and the Southern IPM Center.