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Healing With Educational Farm Tourism

People tend to shudder when the word “tourist” is used on the small island of St. Croix, although visitors are welcomed with open arms. In the Virgin Islands, the T-word is reserved for those herded off the huge boat or plane, into the feeding areas, through the trinket money-extraction zones, and then back on the boat –all in a few hours or days, and never to be seen again.

New friends greeted by the Virgin Islands Sustainable Farm Institute (VISFI) defy conventional definitions of that dirty T-word. VISFI’s farm-based educational experiences don’t cater to the typical tourist–they welcome a global community of potential Earth healers.

The enlightened question bravely asked by the tourism world of yesterday was: “What do local populations get out of tourism?” Today, it goes deeper by questioning: “How can locals and visitors interact in a way that will heal the destination, and ultimately the planet?” Part of the solution lies in educational tourism that benefits the destination, and what seasoned travelers refer to as “home base.” Because of this unique approach, VISFI ranked in the top ten finalists in the National Geographic Society and Ashoka’s Changemakers Power of Place 2009 Geotourism Challenge, as one of the top ten tourism innovations on the planet.

In today’s global society, travel has become more than just “getting away.” People want enriching experiences that benefit themselves personally and the planet we all share. After all, every tourist and local have at a minimum these two things in common: humanity and this big blue sphere we call Earth. In addition, most of us want life to get better. So how are we going to do it?

It is essential to bring collective knowledge together and share it, working two ways at once: one in rebuilding our home community, while building the global community. George Washington University professor Donald Hawkins coined this “Glocalization”, and the Iroquois Confederacy said that tribal peace must be focused inward (the individual or home base) and outward (the collective of other places) at the same time. It must be done more than just for them; it also has to be done for us. Coming together allows us to see that we are one, and each of us special.

Welcome to the new world of tourism. VISFI’s inspiring teachers from the Virgin Islands and other places stand visitors and locals side-by-side. Travelers can spend a weekend this winter with wild foodist Sandor Katz or a week with modern-day cultural village maker Jon Young. If you are looking for a longer trip, take the 2-month Ridge to Reef program, or one of their college-accredited Agriforestry or Permaculture courses.

Help support VISFI’s purpose as an educational destination, and mission of “Seeding beneficial relationships to inspire abundance, creativity, and joy.”

Let us all share how to clean up the world, starting with that T-word.

For more information about VISFI, and to learn how you can arrange a trip, please visit their website, or contact Program Director Nate Olive at

This article is quoted from the Responsible Travel Report The Sustainable Tourism e-Newsletter Vol. 7 No. 11, November 2009 published by STI. The article is uploaded by Majbritt Thomsen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’.

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Posted in Best practice, Cooperation and network, Development, Education and qualification, North America, Sustainability.

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