Posts Tagged ‘Art Friedrich’

(part 2 of 2)

There was plenty at GrowFest! to feed your body, mind and soul. Maybe the best part was all the delicious locavore treats. You could seriously nibble your way from one end of the festival to the other and leave with a full belly.

Front and center, right when you entered the park, was the Urban Oasis Project’s tent where Melissa Contreras, Art Friedrich and Carl Templar set up a mini farmer’s market. Tables were piled with all kinds of fresh local produce in season — starfruit, dragon fruit, longans, jackfruit, okra, eggplant, avocados, tomatoes, baby arugula, seminole pumpkin, plus oyster mushrooms, raw honey, organic rice and heirloom tomato seedlings. If you were hungry, you could dig into an addictive bag of Shawnee’s Greenthumb spirulina popcorn. And, if you’re hungry for knowledge, Melissa’s book “Organic Methods for Vegetable Gardening in South Florida” is a useful resource geared for South Florida gardener. (You can find it at the Upper Eastside and Southwest farmers markets, or get it on Amazon.)

Art Friedrich answers questions about tropical fruit.

Art Friedrich answers questions about tropical fruit.

This year, GrowFest! donated over $1000 to Urban Oasis, and Melissa was thrilled by the gift. “We will use those funds for food and nutrition education at the Verde market,” she said. Her non-profit was recently given a contract to manage the market and farm at Verde Gardens, a low-income housing community in Homestead. Urban Oasis operates several farmers markets in underserved neighborhoods. Event organizer Margie Pikarsky said, “This year I chose Urban Oasis Project for their efforts to bring affordable food to underserved communities. I decided that each year the event will benefit a nonprofit organization which supports/promotes/educates about local food and local agriculture.”

Chef Jon Gambino makes pizza the way the old Italian guys taught him.

Chef Jon Gambino makes pizza the way the old Italian guys taught him.

Delicious aromas of wood fired pizza — yes, pizza! — wafted through the festival. Chef Jon Gabino of Three Sisters Farm brought his pizza oven, pizza dough, and carefully stacked wood next to his work table. Jon’s hands danced with circles of dough, and finished pizzas flew out of the oven as fast as he could make them. Rachael Middleton offered roselle and lemongrass teas and jaboticaba sorbet to complete the meal. Pizza is one of many vegetarian dishes that Three Sisters Farm offers on their Saturday night Farm Meal. Nearly everything on the menu is super local, sourced from the farm or growers nearby. Make your reservations online here.

Jon Gambino and Rachael Middleton serve up pizza while it's hot.

Jon Gambino and Rachael Middleton serve up pizza while it’s hot.

Beekeeper Rigo Delaportilla tells it like it is.

Beekeeper Rigo Delaportilla tells it like it is.

At the demo tent,  there was lots of information to feed your mind. Workshops were scheduled through both days on many gardening topics. Urban beekeeper Rigo De La Portilla spoke on backyard beekeeping. He is one of several local beekeepers who captures swarms and home infestations without killing bees.  Other popular talks were on plant propagation, growing mangoes, vermicomposting (using red wiggler worms to make compost), raising chickens, and setting up a rain barrel.

Robert Morgan Jazz Combo

Robert Morgan Jazz Combo

No festival is complete with without music. This year, music students from Robert Morgan Educational Center’s string quartet performed on Saturday. They had so much fun last year they came back again, and brought the jazz combo with them. On Sunday, members of the South Florida Bluegrass Society livened things up with their old timey tunes.

Cliff and Friends from the South Florida Bluegrass Association

Cliff and Friends from the South Florida Bluegrass Association

Eliza Delaportilla

Eliza Delaportilla with local raw honey, beeswax candles, and some tools of the trade.

Teresa Olczyk and Jeff Wasielewsky from the UF/IFAS Extension office.

Teresa Olczyk and Jeff Wasielewsky from the UF/IFAS Extension office.

Congressman Joe Garcia makes friends with 4-H members.

Congressman Joe Garcia takes a picture with 4-H members.

The celebrity sighting, as it were, came on Sunday afternoon. As I was hanging out by the Extension tent, Congressman Joe Garcia, accompanied by Kevin Chambliss, sauntered into the park and started greeted people. Everybody ran to take a picture with the congressman. You know that your event is on the map when local politicians come to visit!

GrowFest! will be back at the Fruit and Spice Park next year, bigger and better. See you there!

Cuckita “Cookie” Bellande and her daughter of Rochelois Jams

Cuckita “Cookie” Bellande and her daughter of Rochelois Jams

Tom of Florida Keys Sea Salt offers a sampling of salt on an apple slice.

Tom from Florida Keys Sea Salt offers a sampling of salt on an apple slice.

Master Gardeners were on hand to solve problems.

Master Gardeners were on hand to solve problems.

Hani Khouri builds a hot, fresh falafel for hungry customers. His special hot sauce made from ghost and Thai peppers was amazing!

Hani Khouri builds a hot, fresh falafel for hungry customers. His special hot sauce made from ghost and Thai peppers was amazing!

Miguel Bode brought his wide assortment of honey.

Miguel Bode brought his wide assortment of honey.

King Moringa: The world's most nutritious tree

King Moringa: The world’s most nutritious tree

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The tents of Upper Eastside Farmers Market, at Biscayne and 66th.

Used to be that local farmers markets closed down in summer, or brought produce in from elsewhere. Isn’t anything growing, I’ve heard. Too hot. But that isn’t necessarily so! Quite an abundance of local and seasonal produce (and other local foods) has been available at the Upper Eastside Farmers Market, which has stayed open through a second summer and is still going strong.

Look, they have mamey! And dragonfruit!

You can count on lots of fruit during the summer. In the last several months I’ve seen lychees, canistel, dragon fruit, mamey, longans, white sapote, Thai guava, jackfruit, starfruit, monstera, mango, avocado, mamoncillo, red guava, sugar apples (anon), bananas and plantains as they come in (and go out) of season. The market also offers eggs, callaloo, collards, both sweet and hot peppers, herbs, french sorrel, potatoes, carrots, eggplant, tomatoes, okra, squash, boniato, calabaza, snake gourd, allspice berries, katuk, honey, Art’s pickles and whatever else is available. You won’t go hungry in the summer!

Market manager Art Friendrich (or his assistant Olga Gomez) makes rounds of dozens of small local farmers and gardens every week, gathering produce for the market. Everything is fresh, and some picked to order. And everything is labeled clearly if it is organic or pesticide free, sustainably or conventionally grown, and which farm it came from. Upper Eastside is one of three markets run by Urban Oasis Project, a non-profit dedicated to bringing fresh and local food to underserved neighborhoods. “UEFM is our only year-round market, and in peak season we run or sell at other community based markets,” Art said. All markets run by Urban Oasis Project accept EBT (food stamps) and doubles dollars — $10 of EBT funds will buy $20 worth of food.

Serving the Community

Art and Olga employ Youth L.E.A.D. apprentices and train them in sales, service and the details of local produce. “They are placed for 6 month periods, and we have had about 6 different apprentices over the last 12 months,” Art said. Judith Fucien has been working at the market for about eight months and enjoys it. “I like meeting new people and exposing them to fruits and vegetables,” she said. Since she started, she has gained experience about food and people. “I learned that all fruits and vegetables are not from here, that not all people are the same, they’re very different in many ways, and there’s lots of friendly dogs.” Judith comes in the morning to set up tents and tables, stays all day helping customers, and at closing helps pack everything up. Market volunteer Miss Shirley sang Judith’s praises. “I admire her because she’s very faithful, very committed to her job,” she repeated.

Youth L.E.A.D. apprentice Judith Fucien (right) rings up a sale.

Customers can close the food loop by bringing back their raw fruit and vegetable scraps for composting. Right now, the scraps are going to Art’s compost heap, but that wasn’t always the case. Recent Youth L.E.A.D. graduate Terry Perman would take a full bin of scraps for composting to the nearby Earth N Us urban farm. But grant money ran out and Terry moved on. Founder Erin Healy has applied for grant money from the Health Foundation to resume this project. She wants to buy an adult tricycle (with a big basket to haul a compost collection bin) and pay a monthly stipend to the compost gatherer. Composting is just one of many programs and events run by the non-profit. According to Erin, “Youth L.E.A.D. is an emerging food justice organization that educates, empowers, and employs underserved youth to eat healthy, local diets while increasing access to healthy, local foods in their communities.”

Visit With the Vendors

Every time I chat with Yorkys of Bodhi’s Garden Delights I learn something new. She grows herbs in raised beds in her back yard and at Wynwood on the Green, then pots them up to sell at market. This past weekend, she offered Cuban oregano, aloe, culantro, thyme, rue and papalo, along with less typical varieties of basil. Each plant comes with a little card indicating what it’s good for and how to prepare it. Ask her a question, and Yorkys will share her knowledge of cooking and self-care. She also sells cooked vegetarian food, seasoned with her herbs.

Yorkys sells herbs from her garden to yours.

At Novae Gourmet Jerky you’ll meet lively and talkative Helen Cole, the artisan who makes small batches of jerky with Angus beef and chicken. She sources clean meats that are hormone and antibiotic free, and seasons them with her own blends of spices and herbs. Beef comes in teriyaki, BBQ, honey coryaki (sweet or hot) and penang chili (hot) flavors. Chicken jerky comes in teryaki and now penang chili flavors, and is incredibly popular. Some varieties are sliced thick and chewy, and others are thin and crispy like chips. Helen calls her customers “jerky junkies” and for good reason. Try one piece and you want another. Next thing you know the package is empty, and it’s time to get more.

Helen Cole dishes out a taste of jerky.

A sunny day at market can be wicked hot and requires a stop for refreshment at Nature Boyz where Clive makes fresh juices. You’ll find him in constant motion behind his bamboo stand — feeding stalks of sugar cane into a large boxy juicer that presses sweet cane juice (guarapo) into a container, or cutting up fruits and loading the swirling blender, or pouring and serving drinks to thirsty customers. Every drink starts with a base of sugarcane and you can choose pineapple, mango, passion fruit or carrot, or design your own blend. If you need a pick me up, ask for extra ginger. Other choices are fresh coconut water straight from the nut, or a shot of fresh-squeezed wheatgrass. Clive also offers a small assortment of tropical fruit, which he sources from growers in Homestead.

Some of the other vendors at the market are Proper Sausages, Copperpot’s Jams, Hadaya Spices, Crackerman, Asha’s Orchids, Massud’s Roasted Corn, and Akete’s Jamaican Fritters.

Market manager Art Friedrich weighs mushrooms for a customer.

The market is open on Saturdays from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. It located next to the NET office on Biscayne and 66th St. (They moved in March from their old location on a windy, noisy corner of Biscayne and 79th St.) Parking is very tight, as people jostle for a handful of spaces. Almost every weekend there’s a close call (and sometimes a fender bender) in that cramped little lot. Best to turn from Biscayne onto 64th St., go east one block, turn left, go one short block and leave your car in the Legion Memorial Park lot. The walk through the park to the market is safe, pleasantly breezy, and not very long. If you pass by early enough, there’s a free yoga class of about 20 students that meets every Saturday morning at 10 am in the shade of live oak trees.

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Got the following message from Antonio Guadamuz and thought I’d pass it along to all who want to put their money where their mouth is. Below is a checklist of many ways that you can help support Urban Oasis Project with their various efforts to get fresh, local and organic food to under-served neighborhoods. This organization is behind the emergence of two new grower supported markets (in Liberty City and Upper Eastside), and has created dozens of edible gardens for families in need. Now they’re growing in many new directions. Don’t have time to volunteer? UOP is a 501 (c) 3 charity and your donations are tax deductible.

It’s never been a better time to get involved!

Urban Oasis Project has been driven over the past two years mainly by the volunteer efforts of Melissa Contreras, Art Friedrich and Antonio Guadamuz — and they couldn’t even begin to count the number of hours they’ve planted gardens, organized events, networked with people, written grants, coordinated farmers markets, driven vegetables from farm to market, and so much more.

We’re moving into a new phase of the project! Melissa, Antonio and Art will have nearly full-time positions working in our partnership with Earth Learning to create a new sustainable farm and market in East Homestead at Verde Gardens — and it’s going to be impossible to keep up all the other aspects of UOP without a broader group of of members actively taking on responsibilities.

[Urban Oasis Project is no longer affiliated with Verde Gardens!]

Here’s a list of some things that we’re doing that you can help with:

Farmers Markets
Market Assistance —  Helping set-up the market, making the displays pretty, selling veggies, and breaking down. Thursdays and Saturdays.
Market Expansion — Making educational displays, cooking demos, recruiting new vendors, recruiting musicians, etc. Be creative!
Market Outreach —  Promoting the market through flyers, directly to passerby at markets as well as at neighborhood events, homes, stores etc.

Garden Building
GIVE Garden management — Contacting interested recipients, setting up dates to plant, organizing volunteers and materials, follow-up contacts and visits.  Creating handouts for distribution.

Potlucks and Workshops
Organize Workshops — Recruit folks who want to teach, promote the workshops. We’d love to be able to expand this program to reach more low-income people as well! Host a potluck and/ or workshop yourself.

Other Initiatives
Food Truck Project — If we have committed project leaders, we’d like to have our own Food Truck with a permanent garden in the bed, to travel around and give educational presentations.

Homestead-Verde Gardens Farm and Market — Looking for volunteers and workers for the new Verde Gardens project in Homestead! A 22 acre organic, permaculture designed farm we’re building from scratch! Daily work being done so you can come almost anytime!

[Please contact Art Friedrich at 786-548-3733 if you wish to volunteer for Urban Oasis Project activities and events.]

These are a few of the things we do. Do you see a way to tap in? Every little bit counts! The most important thing to us at this point is consistency. You must be able to do what you commit to, otherwise it doesn’t help anybody!

Please call us or email with any questions and to get started! We can do lots to help out, you will be supported!

Antonio Guadamuz
Vice Treasurer
Urban Oasis Project

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Upper East Side Farmers Market is located on the north west corner of Biscayne Boulevard and 79 St.

The newest grower-supported farmers market has opened at the Biscayne Plaza shopping center in northeast Miami. The Upper East Side Farmers Market is managed by Melissa Contreras and the Urban Oasis Project, a local non-profit which is also involved with the Liberty City Farmers Market.

Red leaf butterhead lettuce

The market is small (only four tents) but carries a wide assortment of seasonal fruits and vegetables. All the food is locally grown (within 150 miles of Miami) from several farms and market gardens, and most of it is organic. The selection changes from one week to the next, and some things sell out quickly — so come early for arugula and callaloo. (Those sold out early two weeks in a row.) Some of the produce available last Saturday was sweet starfruit, stubby forked carrots, beautiful red leaf butterhead lettuce that looked airbrushed, bunches of dill and parsley, massive purple-top turnips, kale, and black sapote, just to mention a few things.

In addition to fresh produce, the market offers a wide selection of prepared foods, which also vary from one week to the next. Art Friedrich, co-founder of Urban Oasis, brought quart jars of brine-cured sauerkraut, and zucchini bread to die for. Oval loaves of artisanal bread lay in a basket next to local wildflower honey and Hani’s Organics baba ghanoush. On the next Saturday, bagged worm castings and bottles of worm tea (natural fertilizer) were available from Fertile Earth Foundation. The most surprising discovery was one-pound bags of rice, both white and brown, organically grown in Florida (in rotation with sugar cane) south of Lake Okeechobee.

Friends hanging out at the market.

I visited the market on the first two Saturdays it was open, and each time it was busy with a steady stream of customers. Melissa Contreras, co-founder of Urban Oasis, guess-timated that they had at least 100 shoppers on the first Saturday. Prices at this new market are a bit lower than what you might expect to see at a farmers market, plus they accept food stamps and match EBT purchases up to $10.

“The point of this market is to bring the communities together,” said Kelliann McDonald, spokesperson for Terranova, the center’s developer. She pointed out that the location is right between an upscale neighborhood and a poorer one. She envisions the market becoming common ground for both groups.

For several hours on Saturday, people shopped, tasted fruit, hung out for a little bit and told stories at this brave new market. Whether it will become a community hub remains to be seen, but one can only hope the people in the area, both rich and poor, will embrace the farmers and their bounty.

Look for the Upper East Side Farmers Market in front of Payless at Biscayne Plaza Shopping Center, located on the northwest corner of Biscayne Blvd. and 79 St. in Miami. Open on Saturdays from 9 am to 2 pm until May 28, 2011.

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text by Art Friedrich, urban farmer, member of Urban Oasis Project
photos by Antonio Guadamuz, member of Urban Oasis Project

Saturday, Nov 28, 2009

Art Friedrich and partner Luigi (in flannel) touring ECHO

Getting out beyond SE FL to see what other things are happening in organic and sustainable agriculture in Florida, 16 folks headed out to ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization) Global Farm and Worden’s Organic Farm in N. Ft. Myers and Punta Gorda, respectively. The group consisted of a number of the workers and WWOOF’ers from Bee Heaven Farm, as well as the big brain behind it all, Farmer Margie. Joining them were a number of local food enthusiasts from Urban Oasis Project and some of the new batch of Master Gardener Interns. [Note: Margie organizes a trip to ECHO and Worden every year during the Thanksgiving weekend, for the purpose of enlightening her farm interns and volunteers, and others who want to make the trip.]

Our first stop was the ECHO Global Farm, a christian based project started over 25 years ago to combat the problem of world hunger, primarily in the tropical zone, using the most concrete and long-lasting ways. Tours are available daily, and are well worth the $8. The tour consists of two hours of seeing and hearing about numerous fascinating plants, and methods of growing highly nutritious foods using unconventional and conventional methods that require little monetary outlay. There are six different recreated environments, such as a rainforest, an arid area, a monsoon climate (like we have, with 6 months dry and 6 months really wet), and the fascinating urban garden section.

Container gardening taken to a new level.

The urban garden section showed some great examples of reusing trash, such as old tires, to create containers. Also fascinating was the wicking gardens that are mostly made up of a carpet with a little bit of soil in top and some gravel or even cans wrapped in socks for the plants to have structure to grow on. You fill a closed bucket with a hole in the bottom with water, stick it on an edge of the carpet, and let the garden suck the moisture out as it needs it! This is a great way to use a minimum of water and soil. While some of us had questions about the safety of carpet material, other types of substrate could be developed. Probably any old canvas or woven mat material would do. They try laying the carpet out in the natural UV rays of the sun to break down harmful chemicals.

I also enjoyed the mention of their research using human urine as fertilizer — it is packed full of good nutrients and is sterile! In some countries, this has been government sanctioned for a while, such as in Sweden, where some housing developments have been built with urine diverting toilets that drain to some big tanks. When the farmers need fertilizer, they just pull up, pump some of the liquid gold out, and spray it right on their fields! The savings in water and fertilizer are stellar, and it is only cultural taboo that makes the subject so difficult.

Urban homesteading at its finest!

The Moringa tree is a favorite plant there. They call it the Miracle Tree. One can eat almost any part of it, and it is incredibly dense with nutritive value, and the tree grows in almost any condition. I’ve started my own little plantation at my house in S. Miami.

Rustic raised bed

ECHO is also a seed bank, and they send seeds all over the world to see what works, with attention to both the physical and the cultural aspects. This aspect impresses me. It is applied science that recognizes humanity’s needs as a driving force in experimentation. And the needs of the global poor are great, but with sensitivity and ingenuity, the poor can be given the tools they need to improve their own lives in a sustainable and self-empowering way. ECHO taps into their own knowledge and traditions and offers a broader knowledge base for them to work with.

Endless fields at Worden Farm

The second half of our day was visiting Worden Farm in Punta Gorda. The farm is a brilliant example of hard work and smart planning to generate massive amounts of organic vegetables, sold all along the Gulf Coast. The farm is 55 acres, with about 35 in production, and is only six years old. The soil is almost pure sand, so lots of chicken manure is used as their fertilizer, as well as cover crops to slowly improve the quality. Long rows of raised beds made with plastic sheeting make upkeep relatively easy, and the veggies all looked absolutely flawless.

Drip irrigation system at Worden Farm

The plastic sheeting with drip tape irrigation underneath also helps limit water use, as well as the extra work of short watering cycles very frequently. Extra work to reduce the negative environmental impacts of the farm is a tradeoff they are happy to make. Those plastic sheets at the end of the season don’t hit a trash pile. They go to an agricultural plastics recycler.

Touring Worden Farm by electric cart. L-R: Wwoofer, Eva Worden, Cesar Contreras, Margie Pikarsky (back turned), Melissa Contreras

Farm Ferrari

Cow at Worden Farm

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