One of the great pleasures of life is eating, no doubt. One of my personal great pleasures is preparing delicious meals for my friends and family to enjoy. In California I seldom have the opportunity or where-with-all to immerse myself in this process but in Jamaica I not only have the time – I have the inspiration.
Great food comes from great, fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. When the veg truck comes to the yard I’m presented with a cornucopia of inspiration. When I go to the fish market and see clear-eyed Parrot Fish just pulled from the sea or milky white conch just pulled from its shell – I’m inspired.
On the third Wednesday in December I’m delighted to learn that a farmers market will be at the Community Center. Organized by RADA, the market brings together small farmers and purveyors of produce from St. Elizabeth and inland Westmoreland and Hanover Parishes. Reminiscent of the weekly farmers markets in Sonoma County the big difference here are the prices. Sonoma County markets prices are inflated almost beyond recognition. They tend to be more of a Whole Foods on the street. In Negril the prices are consistent and regulated by RADA, offering the buyer usually a better deal than they would be able to get in a supermarket.
RADA – The Rural Agricultural Development Authority – was developed in 1990 under the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands. Their mission is to promote the development of agriculture in Jamaica as the main engine of economic growth in rural communities. They provide social services and education to their registered farmers and their communities bringing them the tools with which they can not only improve their farm’s productivity but also better their lives as a whole.
We arrived to the market early and there was a nice sized crowd. Men and women with their baskets and bags moved from table to table assessing the offerings at each. I made sure I bought something from each table. Along with the “standards” that I see on the truck such as Yams, Pumpkin, Tomatoes and Cabbage certain vendors also had some “special” items such as eggplant (garden egg) and cauliflower, which is always a thrill. There were tarps filled with nutmeg and cinnamon leaves, baskets brimming over with ripe red tomatoes. It was a feast for the eyes and in my bag, a feast for my table in the very near future.
I’ve heard that the Negril Farmers Market takes place either every 3rd or 4th Wednesday of the month. Sadly, when we tried to go again in January nothing was happening. I guess it may be a bit hit and miss as most things are in Jamaica but when its there it’s a not to miss for sure. The vibe and the colors alone make it worth the trip downtown.