Wake up to farming and the organic movement! I was recently afforded the opportunity to attend one of the Slow Down Dinners at Ridge to Reef Farm, and as a ‘foodie’ I was excited about it! But, while the dinner was definitely amazing, the farm itself and the ideals it represents were the true not-to-be-missed experience. The beauty of the property starts as soon as you drive onto the farm road and start to wind your way through the lush rainforest canopy down to the community house, which has a green front lawn and is flanked by fenced-in gardens. As soon as we were parked and got out of the truck, we were greeted by Scraggles, a very friendly little fawn that has been “adopted” (and is even bottle fed) by the staff at the farm. Some of the staff members were also waiting on the front lawn to welcome us to the farm, and it was in talking to them that I got a better understanding of just how passionate they are about the way they are living and growing food at Ridge to Reef Farm.
One of the first things you notice about the community house as you drive in is the solar panels on the roof. As Shelli Olive led us on our brief farm tour before dinner she explained that not only does the farm have 100% solar powered facilities, but that they are the only lodging in the USVI that has been Green Globe and USDA Organic certified. Ridge to Reef is completely “off the grid” because they pride themselves on the ability to “live as a part of nature, not apart from nature”. They even have a gravity fed water system, and use sustainable materials (including bamboo grown right there on the farm) to build their structures! They offer farm stays on the property and encourage guests to buy their organic food direct from the field and cook in community kitchen for a complete “spade to plate” experience. Those staying at the farm can participate as much or as little in the farming activities as they desire, but it’s hard not to get involved being alongside their passionate farm staff on such a breathtaking farm. In fact, Shelli believes that people that come to R2R farm are: “waking up and looking for information on food and how it’s grown”.
Nate Olive, the Director of Ridge to Reef, started the farm program which was recognized by National Geographic’s Global Tourism Society in 2010 as one of the global Top Ten “Places on the Edge: Saving Coastal and Freshwater Destinations”. The farm grows a variety of organic crops each season, and has started a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program which allows individuals and families to invest in the farm crops at the beginning of the growing season, and in return participants get a box of fresh, locally grown, certified organic produce each week for the entire season. Ridge to Reef also works with other organic growers here on St. Croix to sell fresh, locally grown produce to the residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands through their online market, V.I. Locally Grown. The online market also offers local fresh eggs, meat and locally made products.
“The new movement in food adopted by the farm isn’t just about growing local food; it’s about the whole island’s health.” -Nate Olive
As for the Slow Down Dinner, Chef Tahirah prepared a fantastic six course meal that was indescribable! She too embraces what Ridge to Reef represents and she believes the cultures and we experience as well as the way we are raised influence our cooking. To listen to Chef Tahirah talk is to hear someone who is truly passionate about food and how it must be both grown and prepared with love and respect. In fact, she explained: “Food has a life force. Everything has a life force. The life force of the food will guide your cooking if you listen to it.” Well, it certainly did an amazing job of guiding her as she prepared our meal! To taste the individual, fresh ingredients in each dish as well as the love that went into their preparation is just one of the many reasons to attend a Slow Down Dinner.