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Popular VG farmer ready to ‘throw in towel’

-says lack of market for his produce extremely discouraging
Mr Ralph B. Legair (left) displaying some of his tomatoes that were in high demand at the recent Farmer's Week exhibition in Virgin Gorda. Sadly, Mr Legair is at the point of throwing in the towel on his production of tomatoes because of the lack of market and, where it exists, very little returns. Also in picture are his sons Nelson F. Legair (centre), showing off some of their seasoning peppers, and Ricky D. Lagair (right), seen here with one of the family's locally grown watermelons. Photo: VINO
Many small farmers in Virgin Gorda depend on the hotels on the island to purchase their produce. Photo: VINO
Many small farmers in Virgin Gorda depend on the hotels on the island to purchase their produce. Photo: VINO
SPANISH TOWN, Virgin Gorda, VI – While Government has been encouraging farming activities in the Virgin Islands, some of the Territory’s most seasoned farmers are losing hope with the lack of sufficient market and the necessary tools to effectively sustain them in the industry.

This is according to a number of farmers on Virgin Gorda, where the bulk of the Virgin Islands agriculture activities are based.

Speaking exclusively with Virgin Islands News Online, 77-year-old Ralph B. Legair said he would be throwing in the towel on his production of tomatoes because of the lack of market and, where it exists, very little returns. Mr Legair is arguably the largest producer of tomatoes in the Virgin Islands.

Mr Legair said while there is no doubt that his tomatoes are of an incomparable standard, getting real markets is a major challenge. He said planting tomatoes is his area of specialty which sees him harvesting thousands of tomatoes at any one go. “Well the hotels now dosent want to buy from me, they buying the foreign tomatoes, they carrying down the price, they doing all kind of things so I get fed-up with that,” said the frustrated farmer.

He said he would not necessarily stop planting tomatoes all together but, “I’ll just stay by myself,” meaning that he will be scaling down to farming to a level of producing for his family, friends and the smaller street markets.

In addition to tomatoes, Mr legair grows watermelons, peppers and pumpkins but as for his major produce, tomatoes, the future is grim. “Right now how most of my tomatoes going to all them super markets at Tortola and still when the hotel them buy it they talking about how they only want a box, they have plenty that coming in from outside (being imported from foreign market),” said the senior seasoned farmer.

He said his tomatoes, once properly refrigerated, will last much longer than those being imported “…and they can’t doubt that my tomatoes have the best real flavor…but is some kind of funniness going on.”

Asked if he had raised his concerns and frustrations with the Department of Agriculture, Mr Legair responded, “No, I don’t like to talk a lot but I believe they know very well what is going on, they know, trust me, they know exactly what is going on.”

Mr Legair’s farming activities are usually supported by his younger sons, who promised to do their best to keep the family legacy, of being the largest producers of local tomatoes, alive. One of the boys, Ricky D. Legair, told Virgin Islands News Online that he feels the pain of not getting just rewards for their hard work. “It’s funny, just when they are trying to say that they want young people to be more involved in farming those of us young people who are already into farming are getting a wrong deal at it.”

Ricky D. Legair said, however, himself and brother should be able to comfortably sustain themselves and lead a good life from the extent of farming activities that they do, “but I have to be doing this and still going to another job when the day comes just to make ends meet.”

“It’s a lot of hard work we have to put in with the tomatoes. You have to groom them from the time you put them in the earth to the time they are ready to grow. Picking is a very hard process and it’s just me my brother and my father and with the marketing it’s very discouraging,” said the young man.

He said he has been with his father in the business for the past ten years and, more than the financial gain that should be had, he finds it a fun past time activity.

“I wouldn’t let it die even if my father gives up, I don’t and wouldn’t let it die but something has to be done very soon to improve the market as is it’s not fair,” said Rick D. Lagair.

10 Responses to “Popular VG farmer ready to ‘throw in towel’”

  • ooooo (15/02/2013, 08:10) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    ndp with their lipservice
  • dd (15/02/2013, 08:21) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Hasn't this been the case for years? What is different now?
  • DarkVader (15/02/2013, 09:22) Like (5) Dislike (0) Reply
    The government need to put a high mark up tax on the importation of tomatoes and other produce...this would force the hotels and markets to buy what we row locally. The need to try and help the farmer more.
  • cat walk (15/02/2013, 11:49) Like (2) Dislike (1) Reply
    Whats even scary is that the cuban got no time for farmers it does not pay, only for the airport and expat friends!
  • . (15/02/2013, 13:06) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Obviously heavy duties need to be applied to tomatoes, what is the gov't doing? Telling people to get into farming and not even supporting the agriculture that is already going on.

    This is also a prime examply of how development benefits BVIslanders (not). It benefits the developers, their clients, their friends who they hire, the government through taxes and kickbacks....really development benefits everyone EXCEPT BVIslanders who are the ones who sacrifice their beaches, reefs, fishery, environment, schools, culture, quality of life...
    • . (18/02/2013, 09:42) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
      Everyone keeps talking about heavy duties. Costs of fresh food is already high!!!!! If they raise duties, then people will not be able to afford fresh food and they will eat nothing but junk and pasta. That will raise the obesity and diabietes rates even higher. Stop raddling on nonsense.
      • . (18/02/2013, 23:56) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
        ...OR, they will just buy the local food which will be less expensive, more nutritious than the imported, green picked, force-ripe stuff and help employ A LOCAL.
  • rattie (15/02/2013, 23:15) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    good bye farmer Legair
  • VG villa owner (16/02/2013, 10:00) Like (1) Dislike (0) Reply
    First time that I am aware of someone on the island growing veggies. Maybe he/they should set up a small farmers stand to sell his product. That way he keeps all profits + homeowners can buy from him. Where does he sell his goods?
  • . (18/02/2013, 23:59) Like (0) Dislike (0) Reply
    Selling to homeowners is hardly the same thing as selling wholesale. If he is busy manning a farm stand to sell tomatoes one by one, when will be work growing tomatoes? At night?

    Higher duties please. This is exactly what governments all over the world to to protect the jobs of their constituents. You think America bringing in cars from Japan to sell at same price as American-made?

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