Deep in the St. Croix rain forest, farmhands pack boxes with Malabar spinach, West Indian gherkins, passion fruit. The bounty is bound for members of a farm-share program that’s among the first in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Once the breadbasket of the Lesser Antilles—its arable land is a rarity in this corner of the Caribbean—St. Croix turned industrial in the 1960s and now relies almost entirely on imports. Last year’s closing of a large oil refinery here coincided with a back-to-the-land trend.
“The new movement isn’t just about growing local food; it’s about the whole island’s health,” explains Nate Olive, owner of Ridge to Reef, which draws agritourists to explore the organic-certified farm and sleep in rustic cabanas under mango trees. It’s the sort of place where goats amble among trumpet flowers, reggae wafts through a hammock hut, and homemade hot sauce is laced with dried moringa leaves.
Elsewhere on the island: Sejah Farm raises Boer goats and runs a market near the old Bethlehem Sugar Factory, and Artfarm’s tidy plot cultivates figs and greens for restaurants such as Savant, with its romantic patio in the shadow of the 18th-century Fort Christiansvaern.
This piece, written by Diane Daniel, appeared in the November 2013 issue of National Geographic Traveler.