The notion of farm-to-table dining has taken the world by storm, and it’s about time. The habits of global agricultural movements have left us disconnected from the food that we eat. It’s an ineffective approach to dining that drives up prices and increasing transit pollution while also minimizing the average person’s — and the average restaurant’s — access to balanced, healthy, and nutritious options.
And while sustainability may be the topic of conversation in culinary hot spots from New York City to Paris, there are plenty of places in the world where the farm-to-table approach seems to be the recognized rule rather than the bold new thing. This Caribbean nation is known for its natural beauty and a diverse set of ecosystems that span from the Belize Barrier Reef all the way west to the verdant mountains and rainforests of the Cayo District. And the Belize Tourism Board has done a largely positive job of overseeing a conscientious approach to the industry.
But as Belize begins to grow greater exposure as a destination for western tourists and expats — and as the resort industry grapples with this expansion — it’s fair to consider what the path is forward. Fortunately, someone is already building the blueprint for what a sustainable, local, and organic food to table movement looks like in Belize. It goes by the name of Muy’Ono Farms.
The Muy’Ono Resort Experience
Understanding the importance of the Muy’Ono Farms model means understanding the scale of the Muy’Ono Resorts brand. Muy’Ono has put their name to nine different resorts spread throughout the country, each offering a different slice of the unique ecosystems that make up Belize. The Placencia Resort sits along a half mile strip of beach right along Belize’s southeastern corner, while Copal Tree Lodge ensconces you high among the verdant jungle of the interior. Their resorts include options as varied as a private island, a modest set of cabanas, and a fly-fishing lodge.
This is a resort line that understands the appeal of Belize beyond simply offering the traditional luxury beach getaway, and they’re devoted to crafting experiences that each feel truly unique. But it’s a company ethos that might seem taxing and can ultimately create challenges that would make the average resort owner consider cutting some corners. Fortunately, they also understand that nature provides them with everything they could need.
A Meticulous Approach to Farm Management
The key is the Cayo District. Cayo is a popular destination for adventure travelers because it’s thick with rainforest, caves, and rivers in abundance. But the same climate that makes this land so splendid and magical also makes it ideal for farming. It’s here that Muy’Ono Farms sits, but that doesn’t mean that reaping the bounty of the land is simple. Four hundred different plant seeds grow on the farm, and they’re all heirloom seeds fed from natural canopy water.
And while the steady and perfectly subtropical weather makes this ideal land for growing crops, it couldn’t operate on the scale or efficiency that it does without the work of the farm manager and the other employees who labor hard to produce fresh and healthy ingredients. Their options are exhaustive and include watermelon, papaya, peppers, corn, Chinese cabbage, and plenty others. There’s enough food here to ensure that every restaurant falling under the Muy’Ono brand has access to everything they need.
But what really makes this experience special — and what makes it the ideal model for Belize’s farm to table movement — is the close collaboration between the chefs and mixologists on one end and the farm manager on the other. Each season, they’ll set out collaborating together to determine which plants will be grown and how they can be incorporated into signature menu items. It’s this back and forth that ensures that you’ll have something fresh, new, and delicious regardless of when you visit — and regardless of which resort you decide to take a taste.
Fortunately, the range of culinary options are as diverse as the resorts themselves. The Placencia Resort, for instance, offers three restaurants — individually specializing in Asian fusion, Belizean-Italian fusion, and casual poolside dining. Guests renting the private island of Royal Belize will have access to a private chef, but you can be certain he’s also pulling from the same fresh source of ingredients as he counterparts at the Muy’Ono resort restaurants.
In the resort and restaurant industry, management collections offer one important thing — consistency. Unfortunately, settling for consistency often means making a sacrifice in terms of quality. Muy’Ono sets themselves apart by making sure that their restaurants and resorts are distinct but that they all meet the same high standards of food quality. If Belize’s other resorts can adopt a similarly methodical and conscientious approach, this small Belize country could blaze new territory for the global farm to table movement.
Discover the Muy’Ono experience here.