Trees That Feed: Tree Planting in St. Croix

In September 2017, Category 5 Hurricane Maria devastated Saint Croix, US Virgin Islands. Maria is regarded as the worst natural disaster in recorded history to affect those islands and was also the deadliest Atlantic hurricane since Mitch in 1998.

As part of the recovery process, we were asked to supply trees. Since then, TTFF has been actively involved with a really good partner, Nate Olive. Nate owns Ridge to Reef, a certified organic farm. TTFF supplies breadfruit saplings to Nate, who grows them to a sturdy size, then finds good forever homes for the trees. The trees go to farmers, not-for-profit organizations and the University of the Virgin Islands. All have been grateful to receive the trees. They see the fruit as added income in a few years’ time.

The University uses their breadfruit trees as part of a demonstration orchard. Breadfruit is planted as an overstory tree to shade Valencia orange trees. Valencia oranges have been in a decline. It is believed that lack of shade causes stress and makes the trees more susceptible to diseases. The scientists at the university are studying how shade grown citrus may be more resilient to citrus greening.

So far 4,000 breadfruit trees have been successfully planted and we continue to donate trees to the island. Ridge to Reef farm supplies food to the school system in the USVI. When there is sufficient supply of fruit Nate will offer organic breadfruit to the schools.

The breadfruit plantings have spurred enthusiasm across the Virgin Islands. In addition to reforestation the trees help to create related jobs and business opportunities. Chefs have incorporated breadfruit in many items on their menu.

Jewelry makers are now incorporating breadfruit themes into their designs. ib designs in Christiansted designed a line of breadfruit-themed products. They were so successful that they generously donated to TTFF and asked us to plant more breadfruit trees on St. Croix.

Breadfruit vodka is taking the world by storm. Chef Todd Manley decided to experiment with making vodka using breadfruit instead of the traditional potato. His distillery now sells Mutiny Vodka across the US and is served at Applebee’s Bar and Grill restaurants in Florida.

Soon you may find this fine product at your local pub! Did we mention that breadfruit was versatile? In this story, as always, by working together everyone comes out a winner.