Thursday, May 27, 2010

Eating Locally via the Urban Market

A few days ago, I was pleasantly surprised as I came across el mercado urbano ("urban market") at Plaza Las Américas (PLA), the largest mall on the island. It was strange seeing a farmer's market there but it was great to see locally-grown produce and food products. There were pineapples, papayas, bananas, tomatoes, honey, goat's milk, candy and much more. For the first time in my life, I bought a bag of mesclun salad at a mall that was grown in Ciales. Although it didn't come cheap, at $4 for a small bag, I am more than happy to support local farmers.

I had previously written about Puerto Rico's heavy reliance on food imports, which is estimated at around 80%. Sadly, the agricultural sector does not play a significant role in the local economy. The island certainly has the climate and the terrain to grow crops, but the work is arduous and the economic returns are dismal. The local government is aware of this situation and is now trying to re-activate and support agricultural activity on the island.

Puerto Rico's Department of Agriculture and the Bank of Economic Development (Banco de Desarollo Económico) are the two government agencies which organized el mercado urbano. It was first launched in December of last year, and it is usually held in Condado's Ventana al Mar.
This is the first time in which el mercado urbano was held at PLA. According to most of the farmers and vendors, it was a huge success as PLA is a heavily transited shopping mall. It was a terrific idea to promote this farmer's market at such a venue. In times when the island has a serious obesity issue, greater access to fresh fruit and vegetables can perhaps encourage people to eat healthier. For those of you who are, or will be, on the island, el mercado urbano will be held until this Sunday, May 30th on the first level of PLA, as part of the Plaza Food Fest event. For future urban market events, best thing to do is check the local paper for dates and locations.

(The picture above was taken during my first visit to el mercado urbano in Condado in April).


Jeff and Katrina Kruse said...

Hi, I just found your blog (through Life Transplanet blog) I enjoyed reading it. We share the same observations.

With regards to this post, Katrina (my wife) and I make it a point to eat three things from the yard every day. It’s usually more though. It’s so hard to find fresh green veggies here (San German, PR) we grow our own. Katrina has also written several posts on our blog ( about the food imports here. We have the perfect climate to grow just about anything (unfortunately not Broccoli, zucchini, or other cold crops). We just got some Mesclun seeds and had our first harvest just last week. It is much spicier than I expected! Who expects lettuce to be spicy! It is very good. Time to plant some more. Now that I have found your blog I’ll have to check it every week.


adriana said...

Hello Jeff,

Thanks so much for your comments and for reading. How wonderful that you guys have your own veggie garden! Happy planting and eating! :)