LET'S GET OUR ISLANDS GROWING AGAIN
There is nothing like a farm to feel connected to the earth and nature. On our islands, and throughout the world, people yearn to be closer to the land --
to eat fresh, local food and to enjoy green landscapes and open spaces.
We at Raising Cane are part of the groundswell of farmers working to make agriculture local again for the community good. Our starter crop is sugar cane, and our St. Croix farm is the first in many decades to grow it on a production scale in order to create a local supply for our islands’ rum distillers.
With our fellow farmers, we are working to solve the problems of water infrastructure and access to land to make local farming profitable.
Above all, we want to make farming an attractive career choice for the next generation; one that not only rewards the soul, but that also provides a good living.
By working together, we can reverse our reliance on agricultural imports and conserve this good earth for cultivation.
Are you a farmer at heart?
Let's join hands and bring agriculture home.
WHERE WE FARM
ST.CROIX, U.S.VIRGIN ISLANDS
Prosperity is Raising Cane's demonstration farm where we test new sugarcane varieties and automated processes and equipment, and share what we learn with others.
Through a long succession of owners, Prosperity grew sugar cane, harvesting about 2,600 pounds per acre. Dating to the 1740s, it appears on one of the earliest maps of St. Croix, gently sloping from the hills west of Frederiksted to the Caribbean sea.
Prosperity's lands lay fallow for over three decades until Raising Cane purchased a 200-acre portion in 2018 and proceeded to clear, mulch and plant the soil.
Today, the fields produce around 8,000 pounds of sugar cane per acre with computer-assisted technology – four times more than the harvests of years past.
One of our goals is to sell the raw cane in the form of high-test molasses to our local rum distillers, Captain Morgan and Cruzan. It’s been more than half a century since a St. Croix farm has produced and sold sugar cane on this scale.
But we can do more. We hope to inspire and help others to cultivate their idle lands, too. If collectively we farm 5,000 more acres of sugar cane, we can satisfy almost half of our local distillers’ needs.
At the same time, we are building a micro-distillery to introduce an artisanal rum made with fresh cane juice, the way our French West Indies neighbors have done it for centuries. Then St. Croix can truly say it has a native rum grown from its own soil.
Prosperity welcomes the community and tourists to tour the farm and share their observations and ideas.
To set up a visit, contact Rokean Christopher at 315-344-9300 or rchristopher@raisingcane.VI.
"If the farmer is poor then so is the whole country."
- Polish proverb
““My father used to say that agriculture is the heart of every country."
- Natalia Quiles Deyá,
Farmer, Puerto Rico
WHERE WE FARM
AGUADA, PUERTO RICO
The rise and fall of sugarcane on Puerto Rico followed a similar fate as St. Croix's. At its height in the 1950s, more than 400,000 acres were under cultivation, and seven Puerto Rican mills processed over a million tons of raw cane.
Located in Aguada on the island’s west coast, Coloso was the mother of all farms and cane factories, at one point milling 5,000 tons of sugar a day.
The Puerto Rican government nationalized the sugar industry in the 1930s, but the enterprise faltered and then failed. When the last farm shut down in 1999, the Puerto Rico Land Authority created an inventory of unused former cane lands, hoping to lure farmers back. Thanks to a land lease, Raising Cane is the proud steward of 1,000 Coloso acres, using precision agriculture to install drainage and irrigation systems and prepare and plant the soil.
Raising Cane’s Coloso team are part of a new generation of Puerto Ricans bent on reviving local farming against the odds. When we signed our lease in 2019, tens of thousands of acres of arable island lands sat idle, and 85% of the island's food was imported. The ingredients of Puerto Rico's major rum brands were imported, too.
Raising Cane aims to change that. Our sugar cane will be supplied in the form of juice and syrup to Puerto Rico’s renowned rum distillers, including Bacardi and Don Q.
“No race can prosper until it learns there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in
writing a poem.”
- Booker T. Washington
Thanks to two famous rum distillers on its south shore, tiny St. Croix is the world’s largest per capita consumer of sugar. The Cruzan and Captain Morgan brands purchase $30 to $40 million of molasses made from sugar cane – all of it grown offshore.
The sugar is traded as a nameless commodity, so the standard prices paid to the farmer are lower, whilst London-based traders and import middleman earn more – about four times the value of the crop.
It wasn’t always this way. St. Croix grew its own sugar cane until June 30, 1966, when one man, former Governor Ralph Paiewonksy, changed agriculture history. Palewonsky closed the sugar mills and farms, laid off the workers with severance pay, and gave 6,000 fertile acres to start oil and aluminum refineries.
Puerto Rico took a similar path. And so the farmlands on both islands went into a long sleep.
Today, to encourage rum production, the Virgin Islands government subsidizes 93% of the cost of sugar imports – about $40,000,000 a year.
What better reason to revive sugar cane than to keep more of this money in our own communities?
Rum With An 'H'
No doubt you've tasted ordinary rums made with blackstrap molasses -- the industrial byproduct of white crystal sugar. You won't believe the difference when you taste premium rum made with pure, freshly ground cane juice.
Ordinarily, this artisanal rum can only be found in the French Caribbean, where the growing and processing conditions are carefully controlled, much like fine French wines.
In fact, rum from cane juice has much in common with wine because the cane, like grapes, is crushed fresh and fermented close to the farm, not in the factory. The centuries-old process sprung from the fact that juice, unlike molasses which lasts for months in containers, must be used within the first few hours.
The result of this artisanal process is a rich, flavorful rum drawn from the distinctive qualities of the growing region, or terroir. It is truly a product of the local soil, and no two are alike.
The French call this method rhum agricole -- rum with an 'h.' Or as we call it, farm rum.
Raising Cane has partnered with a French spirits group to introduce rhum agricole on St. Croix.
Want to learn more?
Yes. Sign me up for a tour.
Tel: 315 344 9300
180 Mahogany Road
U.S. Virgin Islands
© 2022 by Raising Cane, LLC Web design and photography by Patricia Borns.