As you enter Immokalee from First Street, you see a sign: “Immokalee My Home” which gives everyone a heartfelt feeling of belonging. That feeling is portrayed through the diverse rich cultures that crowd the streets. For example, not only can you witness Haitian women balancing laundry baskets on their heads, but you can buy a life size piñata, and engorge in authentic food. No wonder why everyone can feel at home in Immokalee, the culture represents many different races. Immokalee is one of the few places in this country where you can get authentic Mexican, Guatemalan and Haitian, Native American, and Southern cuisine, within a short distance from each other. Immokalee is also a place where you can experience cultural dress and dance during one of their many celebrations.
However, in places outside of Florida, they do not know about the rich culture that creates Immokalee. They know Immokalee for its rich agriculture. Immokalee is surrounded by farms and orchards. It’s hard to enter Immokalee without driving past some kind of agriculture. Buses will pick up migrant workers early in the morning where laborers will work, bent over, long hours in the scorching sun. What’s more amazing is that these workers do the same thing day after day. These workers are among the hardest workers in the country. Other states see that the produce is grown in Immokalee, but few are aware of the hard work put into growing and cultivating their vegetables.
Unfortunately, as depressing as it sounds, it’s hard to find agriculture grown in Immokalee sold in Southwest Florida’s stores. Unfortunately, it’s easier to find fruit and vegetables grown in other states such as California and even South America than is to find local produce grown in Immokalee. Most store employees agree that they should carry local produce. However, upper management and corporate executives are the ones given that decision. Here, I found that the word “local” is a general term. Many of these businesses define “local” as long as buy within the state. However, although they claim that they support local growers, the signs on their produce have yet to reflect that. I find it sad, that earlier this year, I was in Pennsylvania where it is easier to find produce grown in Immokalee than it is in South West Florida.
Luckily, there is a place where you can experience both Immokalee’s culture and buy fresh produce grown here. Located at 424 New Market Rd E, the Immokalee Farmer’s Market is filled with produce so rich in color that the vegetables look as though they have been hand painted. Each vender displays different colored fruit and vegetables that look like canvases of brilliant hues. The produce looks so amazing that even if you do not like a particular vegetable, it will make your mouth water, and might even tempt you try it. Once more, the vendors are very friendly and do not make you feel as if they are competing for your business. The next time you shop in a grocery store, take notice to the colors of produce, then go to Immokalee’s Farmer’s Market and see the difference. Keep in mind that the more radiant colors that you see displayed, mean more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants are packed in the produce.
Lewis Perkins is special to the Immokalee Bulletin and can be reached at email@example.com