Whenever I go to St. Lucia, I am reminded of the very simple life that many islanders still live, especially those in the countryside. Carletta’s home is in Soufriere in the south of the island. The first thing you will see when you walk through the front gate of her family home is a garden. It extends around the back and down the side of a mountain where there’s a breathtaking view of the Pitons volcano off in the distance. Carletta’s family grows everything in that garden – tomatoes, cucumbers, and carrots are common, along with plants not grown in North America such as peanuts, carille, and fruits like papaya, sapodilla, soursop and, pommecythere. And, the yard is home to at least three varieties of mangoes.
In the capital of Castries you will find a farmers’ market with rows and rows of tables stacked with fruits and vegetables from the front and back yards of St. Lucians like Carletta’s family. Every day, except on weekends, and before the break of dawn, a line of trucks, jeeps, and vans carry produce from the countryside in the south of the island to the Castries market in the north.
What a joy it is to see aunties and grannies sitting under tattered umbrellas selling their produce in the farmers' market. Carletta’s aunt is one of those ladies. Despite her broad smile, her face shows how hard life must be when the main source of family income depends on the amount of sun and rain that month, and on the back-breaking work needed to lift provisions out of the ground, pick beans and pluck tomatoes from the vine. The money earned from this family garden has helped three children go to school, one of which is now in the first year at the University of West Indies, Cavehill Campus.
During my last visit to the Castries market, I stopped by Carletta’s family stall. Her aunt was selling the most beautiful mangoes I’ve ever seen. I bought a dozen and an assortment of spices. She was so grateful that I had “given her a sale”. Since I was the first sale of the day, I was promised good luck that would be with me throughout that sunny day in May.