Eating local is eating healthy and economical, says Gurr
Food security and providing an avenue to keep money in the territory instead of sending it off island, are contributions local farmers make to the territory, Agriculture Department deputy director Peter Gurr told Farm Fair goers as he urged residents to return to the land to develop farming and to buy locally produced food.
Gurr gave brief remarks late Tuesday afternoon, on day one of the two-day Farm Fair, organized by Agriculture Department with the support of several government agencies including the Department of Commerce, which hosted the 2013 Fautasi Ocean Challenge yesterday.
During his remarks, Gurr pointed to specific issues that he says are considered important when it comes to work of the farmers. For example, “food security for American Samoa” is an important factor and he asked listeners what they thought would happen if ships stopped coming to the territory.
He pointed to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data that states, “We would have a month of food supply in our stores before it runs out.”
“You may say - ‘it will never happen’,” he said, noting that there was a time in the early 1900s when merchant ships could not enter the territory due to an influenza out break in neighboring Samoa that caused many deaths.
“We need to grow more local crops to ensure food security to endure times of disaster,” he urged residents.
Another point he made, is “growth of our local economy”, saying that “If our residents return to the land and start developing farming, that money will stay in American Samoa rather than being sent off island to a vendor abroad.”
He revealed that last year, “over a $1 million was paid to farmers” who sold locally grown produce to the federally funded School Lunch Program, administered by the local Department of Education.
“Much of that money went into our local economy, rather then being sent overseas,” he pointed out.
Gurr also spoke about the importance of improving health of residents, saying that, “in case you haven’t notice, we have a serious health problem. ... in our territory” when it comes to non-communicable diseases.
“...with the change over the past 20-plus years we now rely more on imported food rather than fresh produce that our parents consumed,” he said and declared that “I’m proud of the accomplishments of the farmers in the territory in recent years which is being showcased ... in the Farm Fair.”
“Look around and see the result of these farmers’ hard work,” he told the audience. “These farmers help improve our food security, they provide jobs and help improve our local economy, to keep the money here on island.”
“And most important, our farmers are working towards a better American Samoa by providing crops that are healthier and more affordable so that we can live longer, and happier lives,” he said.
Gurr ended his remarks with what he called a “twist” from a popular saying, focusing on farmers, “Feed a man a taro and eat for a day. Teach him how to farm, and eats for a lifetime.”
Following his remarks was the official statement from Lt. Gov. Lemanu Peleti Mauga, who praised the farmers for their ongoing work and contribution to the territory’s economic future.