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.
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.
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.
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!