An analysis of policy constraints and barriers to enhance sustainable local food supply chain linkages to tourism in the U.S. Virgin Islands determined that inadequate access to land, irrigation, and credit were important production barriers. Critical supply chain barriers included inadequate linkages, including knowledge about availability, demand, price information, and coordination of quantity and quality of local foods. A pilot project to integrate local food producers and island restaurants and resorts was initiated. A directory of suppliers and restaurant/resorts was published. Key collaborators were appointed to policy decision-making positions to address production and marketing constraints.
This project explores a new priority area for SSARE, namely an analysis of policy, program evaluation and quality of life. The farming communities within USVI are made up of many who do not have access to vast amounts of land. Their tenure is, for the most part, not based on land ownership and as such their capacity and incentive to conserve, protect or make substantial or expensive changes in production practices and methods is limited. So, to that extent, they are limited-resource farmers. The project objectives are aimed at increasing and encouraging growth in the organics and sustainable agriculture sector, particularly in its linkages with existing tourism sectors and other appropriate avenues that will encourage stabilization and growth of agriculture in the islands. Implicit in the goal of encouraging growth in the organics and sustainable agriculture sectors is the encouragement of environmentally sound agricultural practices and preservation and conservation of agricultural ecosystems in the islands. Finally, by encouraging and fostering growth in the organics and sustainable agriculture sectors, the marketing of agricultural products at the local-island level and the promotion of economic development within the islands by linking the local food system to the local tourism industry will necessarily be the avenue of choice.
Having demonstrated the cross-cutting nature of the proposed project (i.e., across multiple priority areas of the SSARE programming effort), the project directors and collaborators settled on the emerging priority area of: Policy, Program Evaluation, and Quality of Life as the priority area for this particular project. The thread that intertwines all goals and objectives of the project is the need to analyze different policy options available to the island agriculturalist in order to determine the potential for greatest achievement of the goals of encouraging local food in the tourism industry and increasing the presence of organics and sustainable agriculture within the island agricultural sector.
Policy identification and the process of evaluating different policy scenarios throughout the course of this project will give the Island participants the opportunity to determine the best avenues to address current policy situations and the clearest path to policy reforms that might be needed in order to encourage organic and sustainable agriculture in linkage with the local tourism industry.
Objectives of the project include: 1) conduct research and analysis of policy constraints/barriers to enhance agricultural market development, particularly in organics and agricultural products in sustainable production systems, in general; 2) conduct research and analysis of the policy constraints/barriers, opportunities and potential economic impact for increases in organic and sustainable marketing specifically within the tourism sectors in both the USVI; and 3) transmittal/outreach of project findings to the agricultural, trade and tourism sectors throughout USVI.
The project team met regularly to review progress and constraints in achieving project goals. Meetings were accomplished via telephone conference call and with in-person meetings on a regular basis. The effectiveness of this project was determined in a number of ways. Survey demographic results was compared to information from the official agricultural statistical survey sources, as well as other relevant sources, to determine if consistencies exist across data collection methods. Requests for information were monitored. Information gained at the end of the project as to policies impacted, plans for change and linkages encouraged (especially involving keys and barriers to success) will be monitored beyond the project time frame.
Effectiveness of the project in gaining participation from those affected in the USVI was determined through responses to survey instruments, participation in focus group sessions, through participation in end-phase symposiums on the issues and placing of project personnel into positions of leadership and authority to implement project recommendations into the future.
Ultimately, the success of the project will be measured by the policy impact and whether key policies were identified for change and finally whether change occurred that would herald an improved situation for sustainable agriculture, the local producer and the organic sector growth.
A policy research/extension project conducted by extension and research personnel at the University of the Virgin Islands and University of Arkansas focused on identifying policy constraints and barriers to enhance agricultural market development and linkages to tourism, particularly in organics and sustainable agricultural products. Farming communities in the Virgin Islands have limited land ownership that constrains their ability to secure credit, pursue development of value-added production systems. The economy is dominated by tourism. The project has explored the potential for removing policy constraints that limit the linkage between the agricultural sector and tourism. Producer constraints identified include inadequate land for farming, inadequate water for irrigation, and lack of access to farm loans and capital. Constraints facing the tourism sector include low quality of local produce, inconsistent supply and weak or inadequate marketing and supply chains for local produce.
Strengthening opportunities for linkages between the growing and dominant tourism industry, existing agricultural operations, and potential organic and sustainable operations is needed. The tourism industry imports virtually all of its food supply needs. By improving the relationship between existing and potential agricultural enterprises within the Virgin Islands and the tourism venues that exist, much can be done to improve the situation of those who are involved in agriculture and to improve the “local” experience of tourists, as well as improve the situation for a sustainable and organics agriculture.
Three focus group discussions were conducted in the U.S Virgin Islands between September and October 2005. The three focus groups included:
1) local farmers/producers,
2) restaurant/hotel owners/managers, and
3) policy decision-makers.
The objectives of focus group discussions were to collect in-depth information to be used as the basis for formulating survey questionnaires. Three open-ended questions were posed to each of the focus groups to:
1) What are the key issues that are pertinent to the development of sustainable agricultural – tourism industries in the US Virgin Islands?
2) What are the major constraints for the development of sustainable agricultural-tourism linkages in the US Virgin Islands?
3) How can the policy environments be improved to create and promote agriculture and tourism linkages?
The focus group discussions were summarized in an interim report (Appendix 1). Questionnaires were developed based on the focus group discussions (Appendix 2). The three groups for which questionnaires were developed and administered included:
1) local farmers/producers,
2) restaurant/hotel owners/managers, and
3) policy decision-makers.
The producer/farm questionnaire included questions about production and interest in production of specific products, concerns about production constraints, concerns about marketing constraints, marketing methods, participation or interest in participation in farmer associations and pilot projects with hotels/restaurants, methods to encourage local food/hospitality linkages, and the role that government policy should have.
The hospitality sector questionnaire included questions about purchasing and interest in purchasing locally produced foods by specific products, methods of purchase, methods of promoting use of local foods in the establishment’s cuisine, concerns about ability to purchase local foods, interest in participating in a pilot project with local farmers, methods to encourage local food/hospitality linkages, and the role that government policy should have.
The policy decision-maker questionnaire included questions about perceptions of local food production and marketing constraints, methods to encourage local food/hospitality linkages, and the role that government policy should have. The objective of questionnaires and surveys of study stake-holders is to collect in-depth information to be used as the basis for characterizing attitudes, perceptions and interest in policy and technical constraints and solutions to integrating a sustainable local agriculture with the hospitality sector.
The questionnaires were pre-tested and after final revision were administered spring 2007 to random samples of complete population lists of all relevant stakeholder groups. Analysis was conducted using SPSS statistical software to test congruence of responses to same questions across stakeholder groups.
Based on an analysis of the survey data, reports and policy recommendations were developed and were presented at meetings that included the stakeholders. The information also provided the basis for developing project reports.
A report was generated that summarized the ideas and issues generated from the focus group meeting (Appendix 1). This material also was the basis for a forthcoming article in the Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education, titled “The value of focus group discussions for understanding barriers to agriculture-tourism linkages in developing regions.”
The key issues and constraints identified from the three focus groups include inter alia:
Production related constraints:
1) Inadequate land for farming,
2) Inadequate water for irrigation,
3) Inaccessibility to farm loans and capital.
Whereas marketing constraints identified were:
1) Low quality of local produce,
2) Inconsistent supply,
3) Inadequate marketing and supply chain infrastructure for local produce.
The focus groups prioritized the main recommendations for creating sustainable linkages between agriculture and tourism in the U.S Virgin Islands. The following are the most important recommendations from each focus group:
1) Identify profitable products and segments in the agriculture industry that are economically viable in the Virgin Islands.
2) Reorganize government to improve support for the agriculture industry, including greater participation by farmer associations.
3) Enact legislation to improve capital investment in production and marketing of local produce. Initiate a pilot supply chain project for local produce with restaurants.
4) Identify long-term stakeholders (buyers and sellers).
5) Conduct a needs assessment in order to understand what is available from farmers. Develop a long-term development plan for linking the agriculture and tourism sectors.
These ideas and issues were incorporated into the formal survey questionnaires that were used in 2007 to sample farmers/producers, restaurant/hospitality industry personnel, and government policy decision-makers (Appendix 2). The project implemented these surveys to obtain statistically valid responses of the various stakeholders to more fully explain perceptions and attitudes towards production and marketing constraints and strategies to improve linkages between the agriculture and hospitality/tourism sectors. Analysis of the survey results provided the basis for a conference held in the spring of 2008 to bring the various stakeholders together to address production, marketing and policy constraints on linkage of the agriculture and tourism sectors.
The study findings include:
1) identification of key issues that are pertinent to the development of sustainable agricultural – tourism industries in the US Virgin Islands,
2) generation of ideas about major constraints for the development of sustainable agricultural-tourism linkages in the US Virgin Islands, and 3) generation of ideas for improving policy environments to create agriculture and tourism linkages.
A doctoral dissertation was completed titled Understanding Barriers for Agriculture-Tourism Linkages: setting a policy agenda for agricultural growth (Appendix 3). The study found that water for irrigation, labor availability, local government support, and land allocation are the most important production barriers. The study found that there is insufficient and inconsistent quantity of locally produced food, lack of market outlets and limited farmer – chef links and lack of mutual understanding and communication of market opportunities. Policy options for promoting agriculture-tourism linkages include:
i) a reorientation of the agricultural sector towards diversification of agritourism activities,
ii) modernization of agricultural production for the local farmers to be able to produce adequate and higher quality food demanded by the local markets,
iii) development of policy and market support networks between producers and tourist hotels and restaurant, and
iv) improvement of market information for local food through promotion of local cuisine in hotels and restaurants.
A paper titled, “Linking agriculture and tourism: constraints and opportunities with a focus on local food chains in the U.S. Virgin Islands” was presented at the 2008 Caribbean Food Society annual meeting in Miami, Florida. It will also be published in the forthcoming conference proceedings (Appendix 4).
A paper based on the project titled “Agritourism development in the U.S. Virgin Islands: Understanding policy constraints for development of sustainable local food supply chains to the tourism sector” was selected for presentation at the 2009 National Extension Tourism Conference. Additionally, a poster titled “The application of policy networks in agritourism research: a case of the U.S. Virgin Islands” was also selected for presentation at the same conference. The primary findings reported focused on supply chain constraints for local food production into the tourist restaurants.
Seventy percent of U.S. Virgin Islands restaurants’ purchase less than 10% of their food products from local sources and 35% of restaurants make no purchases of local foods. However, 97% of the island restaurants indicated their willingness to purchase local foods if available. Less than one-third of the restaurants purchase local foods at farmers markets or directly from farmers on a weekly basis. Although given a choice of suppliers among wholesalers, grocery stores, farmers markets, and direct purchase from farmers, restaurants indicated the most preferred method (over 70%) would be directly from farmers. The constraints perceived by the restaurant owners/chefs in developing the local farm to tourist restaurant linkage by importance included: lack of sufficient and consistent quantities of local foods, lack of market outlets and linkage to farmers, lack of local product quality and market information including availability and price. Farmers tended to agree as they listed by importance the lack of sufficient and consistent supply. However farmers believed that the price of imported products places them at a disadvantage and that there is a general lack of interest by restaurant owners/chefs in local food products. This study found that lack of producer knowledge about food product quality and product demand is an important constraint. Similarly, the lack of knowledge of availability and outlets by restaurant owners/chefs are also key constraints.
To address the constraint of adequate and consistent supplies, farmers and policy-decision makers were asked to rank the most important production constraints. Both groups agreed that lack of irrigation water infrastructure was most important. That was followed by lack of local government support, labor availability and land allocation.
With respect to identifying ways to improve linkages, farmers indicated that improving water and land resources and extension education were most important. The restaurant sector indicated that improving market information on local food was most important along with developing improved market infrastructure and farmer-chef exchanges. Policy decision-makers indicated that the most important way to improve linkages was to teach agricultural science in the school curriculum but that was followed with improving market information on local foods, improving land and water resources and facilitating farmer-chef exchanges.
Recommendations to improve the agriculture – tourism linkage that were based on study findings included:
1) the U.S. Virgin Island government should develop fiscal policies to improve land, water and labor availability,
2) a market information service should be developed by the U.S. Virgin Island Department of Agriculture, and
3) the Department of Agriculture should initiate a pilot project between farmers and restaurant owners/chefs to provide for educational exchange and to develop food supply chains for local foods that will meet the quantity and quality interests of the island restaurants.
Actions being taken by stakeholders as a result of this project include: a pilot project, “Farmer-Chef Connection”, has been initiated to strengthen business and personal relationships between farmers and restaurant owners/chefs; a directory that identifies suppliers and purchasers of local foods has been developed and will be published in 2009 and planned activities include farm visits for chefs and food demonstrations by chefs for farmers using local foods (see Appendix 5).
A report that reviews the legislative background and current laws regulating agriculture in the US Virgin Islands was prepared (Appendix 6). This review provides a recitation of the role and responsibilities of the Commissioner of Agriculture and related agencies, a review of the most current law on encouragement of agriculture and sustainability, a review of related literature on agritourism on mainland U.S. and Canada.
Educational & Outreach Activities
Peer reviewed journal and proceeding papers
Crossman, S., C. Robles, L. Peterson, E.J. Wailes, and F.A. Mwaijande. 2008. Linking agriculture and Tourism: Constraints and Opportunities with a Focus on Local Food Chains in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Selected paper and forthcoming proceedings, Vol. 44. Caribbean Food Crop Society annual meeting, Miami, Florida.
Wailes, E., S. Crossman, C. Robles, F. Mwaijande, L. Peterson. 2009. Agritourism development in the U.S. Virgin Islands: Understanding policy constraints for development of sustainable local food supply chains to the tourism sector. Selected paper and conference proceedings for the 2009 National Extension Tourism Conference. Park City, Utah.
Mwaijande, F, J.D. Miller, E. Wailes, L. Peterson. 2009. The value of focus group discussions for understanding barriers to agriculture-tourism linkages in developing regions. Journal of International Agricultural and Extension Education. Forthcoming.
Mwaijande, F., E. Wailes, J. Miller. 2009. Promoting Agritourism Development: The application of policy networks implementation and identification of network actors. Submitted to the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research.
Mwaijande, F. 2007. Understanding Barriers to Agriculture-Tourism Linkages: Setting Policy Agenda for Agricultural Development. Doctoral dissertation. University of Arkansas.
Mwaijande, F., and E. J. Wailes. 2009. The application of policy networks in agritourism research: a case of the U.S. Virgin Islands. Selected poster and abstract for proceedings, 2009 National Extension Tourism Conference. Park City, Utah.
Crossman, Stafford. 2008. Linking agriculture and Tourism: Constraints and Opportunities with a Focus on Local Food Chains in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Caribbean Food Crop Society annual meeting, Miami, Florida.
Coit, Marne. 2008. Contracts in Local Food Sales. Presentations to Farmer-Chef Connection. U.S Virgin Islands, St. Croix and St. Thomas. May 2008. (Two presentations)
Wailes, E. 2008. Linking Agriculture and Tourism: Constraints and Opportunities. Presentations of project survey results to stakeholder conferences, St. Croix and St. Thomas. January, 2008. (Two presentations)
Wailes, E. 2009. Development of sustainable local food supply chains for the tourism sector: the case of U.S. Virgin Islands. Presentation at the 2009 National Extension Tourism Conference. Park City, Utah.
Wailes, E. 2009. Implementing local food supply chain development for the tourism sector in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Presentation at the Caribbean Agro Economic Society. Barbados.
University of U.S. Virgin Islands Cooperative Extension Service. 2009. United States Virgin Islands Agri-Tourism Networking Directory.
Mwaijande, F. and E. J. Wailes. 2006. Report on Focus Group Discussions. University of Arkansas, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness Staff Report.
Hipp, J. and E. Wailes. 2009. Linking Local Farmers to Local Hospitality: An Analysis of History, Present Circumstances and Potential for the Future. Policy to support Caribbean Farm-to-Table efforts. University of Arkansas, Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness Staff Report.
“Tourism and agriculture in USVI.” Common Ground. Spring 2007 p. 3. Publication of the Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program.
“Chefs Showcase Locally Grown Food for Farm-Restaurant Partnership.” St. Thomas Source. Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas. December 7, 2008.
“Crucian Luncheon Showcases Local Food and Chefs.” St. Croix Source. Christiansted, St. Croix. December 10, 2008.
“Homegrown: Chefs cook up local produce, network with farmers.” The Avis. St. Croix. December, 11, 2008.
In addition to the publications based on project research, a number of notable impacts of the project can be noted.
1) In February 2006 the Agriculture and Food Fair of the U.S. Virgin Islands was held on St. Croix had the theme of “Agriculture and Tourism: The Perfect Mix in 2006”. Much of the inspiration for this theme came from the initiation of project activities. This fair was attended by over 5,000 island residents.
2) In February 2008, two symposium/conferences were held, one on St. Croix and one on St. Thomas where the project findings were presented for review and discussion to stakeholders. Representatives of the Department of Agriculture, Department of Tourism, the Governor’s office, many island restaurant/resorts, and island farm producers were in attendance.
3) In June 2008, a meeting with local farm producers and restaurant owners/chefs was held where a technical presentation titled “Contracts in Local Food Sales” was presented by Ms. Marne Coit, staff attorney for the National Agricultural Law Center. This meeting was attended by more than 40 individuals.
4) In December 2008 two farmer-chef network events were held with the purpose of showcasing local foods used in island cuisine. Media coverage of these events is provided in Appendix 5.
5) It is noteworthy that one of the principal investigators of the project, Dr. Louis Peterson, Jr., was appointed to be the Commissioner of the Department Agriculture in 2007. One of the participants in the 2005 focus group study of the hospitality sector, Ms. Beverly Nicholson-Doty, was named to be the Commissioner of the Department of Tourism. One of the participants of the focus group study of policy decision-makers, Gov. John de Jongh, Jr., was elected Governor of the U.S. Virgin Islands for 2007-09. All three of these influential policy decision-makers have indicated an eagerness for the results of the project to be pursued in policy developments for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Evidence of the adoption of the ideas developed and promoted by this project include high levels of participation at outreach meetings by farmers, hospitality and policy decision-makers. Additional evidence is reflected in the high level of participation in the U.S. Virgin Island Agri-Tourism Directory. Finally, awareness and commitment by project participants who are now in positions of leadership and authority provide additional evidence of the impact of the project.
Areas needing additional study
Additional study is needed to determine issues and costs of full implementation of the “Farmer-Chef Connection”. An additional study is needed to determine the most cost efficient approach to addressing the resource constraints facing farmers including access to irrigation water. The development of reservoirs to capture the seasonal rainfall that can be utilized by farmers during the dry season should be investigated. Finally, detailed analysis of the costs of production and marketing of local foods—fruits, vegetables, meat and livestock projects should be conducted to determine where efficiencies can be improved to make the local food supply more competitive, quality enhanced and economically and environmentally sustainable.