The Mennonite Market—Chronicles of Life in a New Land
5 AM. It’s still dark as I pull myself up out of my plush queen bed at the Grand Baymen Garden Resort. I get ready as quickly as my brain allows at this hour, knowing that the once-a-week Mennonite farmers’ market is already underway and that items sell out quickly on this island.
Before I scoot out the door, I double check that I have cash, my room key, and a re-usable shopping bag for whatever goodies I find there. It’s been raining, so my bike is a little wet as I climb aboard and turn left towards San Pedro town.
The streets are slightly quieter than usual at this hour, but I still pass a few other cyclists and a golf cart here and there. Everyone smiles and says good morning. This market is located on the back side of the caye, near the boat docks. I asked a friend for directions last night and I think I remember the way to get there.
Every Tuesday, Mennonite farmers pack up their organic goods and travel by boat from the mainland to sell the fruits of their labor on both Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker. It’s every veggie-hungry resident’s chance to stock up on fresh produce for the week—not to mention every produce stand’s delivery day.
As I get a little closer, I can already see some enterprising Belizeans re-selling the treats they bought just down the street. The key, I’ve been told, is to look for the men in overalls. That’s how you know you’re in the right place.
I spot the stand just at the end of the row, bustling with people sorting through everything from grapes, peaches, watermelons, apples, onions, peppers, broccoli, lettuce, and more. I’m not really sure how the whole system works, so I stand on the outskirts and observe for a few minutes before braving the crowd. I gather that there’s really no method to the madness. It seems each person just grabs what they want and it’s weighed, product by product, when they’re ready to pay.
I take my time looking through the hidden treasures buried in boxes. In the end, I snag some sweet green peppers, jalapeno peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, celery, parsley, onions, corn, and ginger all for $20 USD. I’m ecstatic considering I paid $4 USD for three semi-ripe tomatoes a few days ago in the local grocery store.
This market is definitely the best place to purchase produce on the island, and I’ll certainly be frequenting it as many times as I can manage to wake myself up at that hour. For now, though, I take my treasures home, already daydreaming of climbing back into bed and snagging a few more hours of sleep.