Expats Build Businesses and Share Their Passions at a Panama Food Market

The Pedasí Love boutique market was launched three years ago in the town of Pedasí, on Panama’s Azuero Peninsula, to showcase locally produced clothing and household decorations. Within a few months, the site began hosting the Fresh Friday food market, further boosting its appeal.

Located just off the main town square, the market is now a popular fixture of the local community. It provides an opportunity for expats and locals alike to sell their homemade goods, or explore new offerings inspired by local and foreign cultures.

On the day I visited recently, there were about 15 expat vendors at Fresh Friday. These included Carmela and Rebecca. They were among the first vendors at the market when it opened three years ago. Carmela sells sourdough, whole wheat, white, rye, and multigrain breads as well as chocolate chip muffins.

Nearby, Rebecca and her husband, James, were offering organic and locally grown greens and herbs, such as arugula, wasabi mustard greens, spinach, peppermint, cranberry hibiscus leaves, and more. Their wares also included pasture-raised chicken and free-range pork sausages.

Peter and Mariati, meanwhile, were selling passion fruit and banana nut muffins. These sweet treats were made from fruits they had grown in their garden.

For most of the vendors at the market, the products are a labor of love. Typically the few extra dollars they make selling them cover the cost of the materials and maybe some cold refreshments at the end of the day. Still, the commitment to quality was evident throughout the market.

Rosanna has developed a range of intriguing products, from spicy sea salt and spice rubs for barbecuing to papaya marmalade and oils infused with garlic, herbs, or spicy jalapenos. Some of her items are tailored for the expat community, such as the delicious pumpkin eggnog on offer when I visited.

For Dennis, the owner of Coucoucrazy, a café and bar in Pedasí, the market provides an opportunity to showcase his home-brewed coffee and beer, and promote Monday night happy hour at his establishment.

Josh was debuting at Fresh Friday on the day I strolled through the market, selling his homemade ceviche. He was using this platform to road test a new business idea. At present, he sells ethically caught filleted fish through a local community WhatsApp group, and anticipates opening a retail fish market and deli seafood sandwich store in about a month.

When the Fresh Friday Market drew to a close, many of the customers milled around waiting for a fruit and vegetable truck to arrive, which it does weekly about an hour after the market ends. The lush, vibrant produce was sold to eager expats almost as soon as it could be unloaded.

One of the things that many expats worry about most when they make the initial move overseas is a lack of community. However, as shown by the Pedasí Love market, you can find vibrant, engaging communities, and some home treats, outside your native shores.

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