Harvests and Hues
A Culinary Adventure at St. Croix’s Bush Cook Festival
In the heart of St. Croix, the vibrant Bush Cook festival unfolded at Sejah Farm, a 15-acre oasis of agriculture. A cheerful bartender, donned in a tropical madras kerchief, concocted passion-fruit cocktails with Mutiny Island vodka, distilled locally from breadfruit. Nearby, a chef, wrestling with his toque, crafted a pork-and-pumpkin stew sourced from the farmers market. Under a tent, another chef dished out birria made from Boer goats, grazing just yards away.
Green Ethos Year-Round
St. Croix’s Sustainable Evolution
The Bush Cook festival was a snapshot of St. Croix’s commitment to sustainable farming and ecotourism, a philosophy ingrained in its year-round ethos. With over 450 small farms operating on this 28-mile-long island, marked by a threefold increase since 2007, and solar panels adorning houses and lush fields, St. Croix is a beacon of eco-conscious living. Dim red lights along beachfronts guide baby sea turtles to the sea, and coral reefs receive ongoing restoration efforts.
Waves Cane Bay
Sustainable Luxury by the Turquoise Cove
Waves Cane Bay, one of the island’s boutique hotels, epitomizes sustainable luxury. Overlooking a turquoise cove renowned for snorkeling, the 11-suite resort collects rainwater for eco-friendly practices. The design exudes Caribbean chic, with wood-beamed ceilings, marble-lined bathrooms, bamboo furniture, and spacious verandas. Ama, the hotel’s seafood restaurant, features lionfish ceviche, aiding in the fight against this invasive species.
Diving into Conservation
Marine Exploration at Feather Leaf Inn
Eager to explore marine life, I joined a dive with Ryan Flegal and Corina Marks at the eco-lodge Feather Leaf Inn, overlooking Butler Bay. Passionate about ecology, the husband-and-wife team provides dives for citizen scientists. Unsuccessful due to choppy waves, I visited the Coral Innovation Hub, a research center studying novel breeding methods to restore reefs faster.
Preserving Heritage and Biodiversity
Sunrise Hike at Jack & Isaac Bay Preserve
A sunrise hike at the 300-acre Jack & Isaac Bay Preserve, led by Celeste Jarvis of the Virgin Islands’ Nature Conservancy, showcased St. Croix’s commitment to preserving heritage and biodiversity. The preserve, once prowled by poachers, now safeguards 99 percent of turtle eggs, allowing successful hatching seasons. The hike revealed the resilience of the ecosystem, with tales of successful conservation efforts.
Kayaking in Salt River Bay
Under the new moon, I embarked on a bioluminescent kayaking adventure at Salt River Bay with Sea Thru Kayaks VI. Clear-bottomed kayaks allowed us to witness the blue-green haze of plankton, creating a dazzling underwater constellation. Our guide, Jake Victor, emphasized the importance of responsible exploration to maintain the brilliance of bioluminescent bays.
Slow Down Dinner
Culinary Revelry at Ridge to Reef Farm
Ridge to Reef Farm, nestled in the rainforest, hosted a “Slow Down Dinner,” highlighting the island’s sustainable culinary movement. Nate Olive, the farm’s director, showcased the farm’s bounty with courses like roasted carrot salad, grilled Senepol cattle steaks, and tangy star fruit ice cream. The dinner celebrated the sacred act of breaking bread sourced from the land, embodying the island’s collective journey toward sustainability.