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fruits, veggies, and other produce in Puerto Rico

Fresh Fruit, Veggies And Other Produce In Puerto Rico

Where can you find local fruit, veggies, and other produce?

Tropical fruit, fresh veggies, fertile soil, and tropical weather – sounds like the agriculture paradise, right?

I wish it were so in Puerto Rico…

When we first embarked on our plan of moving abroad, we had big dreams of eating locally grown, organic fresh fruit and veggies. We thought: “wow, finally we can have them all-year round”. In fact, we were so excited about it that I wrote a post on our experience in Costa Rica. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of stating that there was lots of organic produce available – should have researched more because I was very quickly corrected by my readers.

It is quite unfortunate but most of Latin America does not grow much organic produce. And Puerto Rico is particularly bad…

“[..] the island’s agriculture has plummeted during the past 100 years from output that represented 71% of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1914 to a mere 1% in 2014—and jobs in agriculture dropped from a high of 263,577 in 1930 to 19,000 today.” …says Caribbean Business.

Local fruit, veggies, and other produce

We have this amazing climate, great soil but agriculture is just about dead. It only accounts for about 0.8% of Puerto Rico’s gross GDP. This is unfortunate because it creates a situation that Puerto Rico depends on import from U.S.A for most of its fresh produce. The decline in local farming has been contributed to the “industrialization, bureaucratization, mismanagement of terrains, lack of alternative methods, and a deficient workforce.”

Local experts say that, currently, 80% of what Puerto Rico consumes is imported to the island but that, over time and with policy change, 90% of those imports could be locally produced. WOW! This is staggering and shocking to us.

The good news is that there is a new, although still small, trend for “micro-farming” – small local growers that are willing to share, sell, and swap their goods. And, because Puerto Rico is blessed with many favorable factors for agricultural diversity and is ideal for great variety of crops, we hope this trend continues.

We have been here in Luquillo since January, and we have learned that there are ways to get fresh, locally grown produce. They just require a little effort.

farmers market produce

Here are some tips on getting fresh fruit and veggies:

Stop on the side of the road and pick those tasty mangos, avocados, guavas, etc. There are many trees and bushes, even in town, that are not on private properties where the fruit just falls to the ground and rots. We used to stop regularly when we were in Sabana and loaded up with mangos. YUM!

Befriend a farmer or agriculturist in the area. Don’t be afraid to talk to the locals with a small farm. They are usually very friendly and are happy to sell (and sometimes even gift) their delicious spoils to others. We had one neighbor that every time he saw us on the street, would call us over and gift us his fruit.

Go to local farmers markets. Many areas in Puerto Rico have farmers markets – find out where they are and get the local stuff. You won’t be disappointed – much of the produce is amazing. We don’t have one in Luquillo yet, but I drive with friends to San Juan area to get amazing organic produce.

Coffee beens in Luquillo PR

Stop and check out the fruit and veggie trucks. Puerto Rican farmers often set up on the side of the road with a truck full of in-season produce. Not all of them sell locally grown stuff, so you need to be aware but if you buy things that are currently in season, there is a very good chance you’re going to get a local avocado, mango, guava, etc.

Buy what is in season to be guaranteed you are getting local produce. As in the point above, learn what grows when. For example, avocado season is still on but almost over here in Luquillo, mango season has passed, etc.

Shop in local grocery chains. Amigo is owned by Walmart and their produce is mostly imported. Try Econo (a local grocery chain) as they tend to have much more local produce. Figure what the local chain is in your area is and support them. I know too many people that get their produce at Costo or Walmart and, as a result, don’t get any local goods.

Get involved. Even if you are not a grower, you can support the growers in your area. We are helping start a Farmers Market in Luquillo because we believe that there is a huge need for one. You can too!

Here is to eating and buying local!

Joanna-

 

 

About Joanna

is a Polish American living in Arizona with her husband Tim. She is a founding partner of JTR Tech and she is proud to be a professional geek. She had dreamt of living abroad for many years. So, she and Tim created AbroadDreams.com to document the process of making their dream of moving abroad come true. They spent 2 years in Puerto Rico and several months in Spain and Poland. Now they are exploring the American Southwest.

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6 comments

  1. We have a house up in the mountains near Adjuntas and are just about there full time now. Our shipping container made it to SJ just yesterday! We’ve been collecting seed packets of things that will grow at our house and plan on setting up garden beds in our front yard as soon as possible. We also already have some fruit trees producing and avocados. When we lived in Ohio, we always had a garden and lived out of it for the summer. We are looking forward to being able to live out of the garden year round here!

  2. Thanks everyone for all your comments. All good points. We have been suffering from a terrible drought this summer on this side of the island (east), so it makes things doubly difficult to grow. 🙁

  3. It is hard to do things. Growing food is one of those things that is hard, especially in the hot tropical climate. It is however very rewarding when the fruits of labor pay off.

    If someone has the choice between a job in an air-conditioned office playing on the internet all day making good money or sweating and working in the hot humid climate on less than minimum wage there is little guesswork in which direction modern people lean towards.

    The import of food also reflects modern diets. I think a lot of people are used to highly processed food that is served for them at restaurants. The food scene in Puerto Rico makes sense when you look at the big picture of advertising and the influence the US government has had on the island.

    We like to grow and eat as much as we can off our property and the climate to grow was one of the major reasons we decided to move here.

  4. The great thing about Puerto Rico is you can grow just about anything here with the exception of a few citrus plants due to disease. We are capable of producing up to 90% of our food products. If we were ever to have a serious natural disaster this would be imperative to Puerto Rico’s survival. Not to mention saving on import costs and improving the health of the islands residents whose diet consists mainly of convenience foods. Yes, we all share produce but it’s not enough. We have double the national average diabetes rates. I would think that is still a very conservative number since many ppl dread going to the doctor because of the long waits, cost and hassle.

    Thankfully, in the last several years we have seen a young agricultural movement that is significantly supported by the government. For instance the rice fields in the west and now govt owned land being opened up to serious young farmers here in Manati and other locations. In addition, enrollment in agricultural studies has exploded and continues to increase. We’re definitely headed in the right direction but there needs to be more education and a broader network of farmers, especially between the old and the new. One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.

  5. I was pretty shocked when I found out that there really isn’t much local produce to purchase on the island. I figured with the climate being what it is, that fresh fruits and veggies would be plentiful. We’re not on-island yet, but when we get there I fully intend on setting up a small garden for my family and friends, and perhaps to sell at the farmers markets.

    Perhaps with enough time and effort, we can all help to reduce the dependence on imported fresh goods.

  6. Yes, we were quite shocked, too, that so much is imported. We always stop at the fruit/veggy stands and shop Econo and I think one other one that I can’t remember the name. Last year we were picking up loads of mangos from vacant lots. I wish we’d found an avocado or guava tree. You have given some very good tips. All the best to you both and your endeavors!