Farm Fair 2012 highlights variety of produce
American Samoa’s 2012 Farm Fair officially kicked off yesterday morning at the Fagatogo Market Place with over 100 local farmers registered to take part in this year’s Fair, a two day event, showcasing and selling their produce. This year’s Farm Fair is hosted by the Department of Agriculture with support from the local business community, including the Chamber of Commerce and the American Samoa Power Authority.
Samoa News spoke with Department of Agriculture Director Lealao Soloata Melila Purcell Jr. about this year’s Farm Fair and what he hopes to achieve this year.
“Today is an exciting day for the Department of Agriculture. The last Farm Fair that we had was back in 2008—this is going to be a great event,” said Lealao. “Whoever the next director will be, I know he or she will continue this program. I think it’s great for the farmers, because it shows the ability that they have to provide food for the territory not only in villages, but families as well”.
“All of this food from nature is not only good for your body, it will help slow some of the imports, as far as taro and banana are concerned— but that’s only if we have enough farmers and families who will plant and grow these local products for future support,” he explained.
Registration for the Farm Fair began at 12 noon yesterday, and ended at 6p.m. Some of the produce on hand included plenty of taro, yams and ufi, as well as pumpkin, green beans, scallions (long onions) and lemon grass.
Papayas, coconuts, bananas (green and ripe), lemons and grapefruit were some of the fruits being offered, while tomatoes, bok choy (chinese cabbage), green peppers, cucumbers, eggplant and squash were some of the vegetables highlighting the farmer’s tables. Sugar cane and lemon grass were also available.
Yesterday evening was the judging for the farm produce (taro), in the categories of size, texture, weight and healthiness of the produce. DOA reports that the taro crop has come a long way since the fungal blight that decimated the plant in 1994 and affected the territory’s revenue significantly. Thanks to the many breeding efforts of the Department of Agriculture, Land Grant, and assistance from the Independent State of Samoa; new and parasite resistant taro crops have resulted—restoring one of American Samoa’s much needed resource.
Today will there will be sewing and handicrafts on display, along with prepared food. Local fishermen will bring in their catches, where there will be prizes given out for different categories according to Lealao.
He explained that they (the Department of Agriculture) are trying to build enthusiasm for planting and growing produce. “It is our support system. It is our food security. If we do not go back to the ground, or utilize the earth that God has given to us, then we will miss out. Especially if devastation should visit our island and no ships can bring in containers. Where do turn to for support then? We turn to the earth.”
He added, “ In 2008, only fifty farmers participated in that farm fair and now we have over 100 farmers who came out in support. Everyone is excited about this year’s farm fair.”
According to the director, the department has an approved budget of $40,000 that will provide prizes for the winners, along with donations from the Chamber of Commerce, and the business community that will assist with consolation prizes.
“We are grateful for our supporters— the Chamber of Commerce, Blue Sky, Tool Shop, ACE and CBT,” said the director.
Samoa News had a chance to speak with Taimane Johnson, who was a participant in this year’s Farm Fair.
Said Taimane, who is an outspoken advocate for the local farmers, “I think that this fair is very important because it showcases what we have planted and grown here in American Samoa.”
“I have been fighting for agriculture here in American Samoa for many years, because I believe that agriculture is the backbone of any country. When you look at Western Samoa and Tonga and their export revenues, you are talking about millions and millions of dollars. What about us?” she asked.
“We have to have that ‘can do’ attitude. Maybe this will encourage some farmers and the government to work together. I suggested to the governor that we have this fair. He listened to me, and I thank him for that,” she said.
Saunoa Liva from the village of Ta’u, who is an avid farmer and has been one for many years, spoke with Samoa News while visiting the Farm Fair yesterday morning, giving his thoughts and view on this year’s fair.
“I believe this agriculture Farm Fair is a blessing for all of us living here in American Samoa,” said Liva.
“I am here to admire and respect all of the farmers that work the land. At the same time, I can learn from them and someday they might learn from me. It is a great pleasure to be here. Thank you very much Department of Agriculture for doing this for all of our farmers,” he said.
According to an ASPA press release, it is launching its “Recycling for Food” initiative in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture and in support of the farmers in the Territory.
“Please call the Call Center at 699‐1234 or the Solid Waste Office at 699‐4619 for more details,” the media release said. “Let us celebrate and support our farmers through our actions of recognizing a green and clean environment by the concept of reduce, reuse and recycling of scrap metal and recyclable materials.