TINIAN-Mayor Ramon M. Dela Cruz said efforts are underway to make a farmers market a reality on the island.
“We're working very hard to open up the Tinian Farmers Market,” Dela Cruz said in an interview, adding that the proposed farmers market would be built at the harbor.
Dela Cruz has requested the Department of Public Lands to designate the market site to the Tinian and Aguiguan Municipality so that their office can invest capital improvement project funds to build the market.
He said the market would offer Tinian farmers and ranchers a new venue to promote the island's most important products, cattle and donni sali.
The proposed market would feature stalls where local entrepreneurs can sell their commodities, a slaughterhouse, and a “skills station” where residents can receive proper training on how to process donni sali and cattle to create value-added products such as hot pepper powder and beef jerky.
The market, Dela Cruz said, would also be good for Tinian's tourism industry as visitors can stop by the place to buy goods they can bring home.
According to Dela Cruz, members of the Tinian Cattlemen's Association, which he described as “more organized” nowadays, support the proposal since it is in line with their efforts to improve the quality of beef produced on the island.
He said association members work with the Northern Marianas College's Cooperative Research Extension and Education Service to improve the genetics of the cattle on island, using grant funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Dela Cruz noted that the farmers market would also be an avenue to “protect” the quality of Tinian-made products. He said there are people who make hot pepper products and claim that they are made from donni sali, Tinian's small but highly potent pepper.
“They're cheating the customers, so what I plan to do is to have a municipal product seal that would authenticate the hot pepper products from Tinian. Products that bear the seal would guarantee customers that they are really made from our own donni sali,” he told Saipan Tribune.
But Dela Cruz noted that the farmers market would only get off the ground when DPL designates the proposed site to his office. His designation request, he added, was also forwarded to former governor Benigno R. Fitial.
Should DPL not support the proposal, Dela Cruz said the other option is to have the Legislature pass a law that would assign the public land to the Tinian and Aguiguan municipality.
“We need some people to actually support us because we feel our hardships on a daily basis. We know what we want, and we're in the best position to say that,” he said.
The municipality also has an existing request to DPL for the transfer of the Tachogna Beach Park to their jurisdiction.
“This is a prime area for visitors and residents. They're [DPL] just restricting our movement. But I'll continue to fight them,” said the mayor.