Posts Tagged ‘Pinecrest Gardens Farmers Market’

A couple months ago, a crop of fresh new market signs popped up at the Bee Heaven Farm tent at Pinecrest Gardens Farmers Market. The colorful creations were drawn by Rachel, farmer Margie’s daughter, who is studying illustration arts at SUNY Purchase.

But hurry, you don’t have much time!

This coming Sunday, April 15th, is the last day that Bee Heaven will be at the Pinecrest market. (The market runs through May, but Bee Heaven’s growing season is already winding down.)

It’s also going to be quite the day, with the 3rd Annual Pinecrest Earth Day Festival going on throughout the Gardens. Admission is free.

By the way… these pictures were taken back in January…. so they’re not necessarily representative of what’s in season and available now at market. Different signs will be up, too. Go take a look for yourself!

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It’s that time of year when heirloom tomatoes are coming in thick and fast. You’ll find them in all shapes and sizes and colors at the Redland Organics tent at Pinecrest Gardens Farmers Market on Sundays.

Big ones, small ones, green, red, yellow, even orange, looking like jewels, enticing you to gather them from their wooden trays.

Eat one and you’ll know why people are crazy about heirlooms. Not only are they beautiful, but they’re just bursting with real flavor, their seed saved for generations.

Green ones tend to be a bit more tart, yellow and orange are sweet, and “black” ones have the richest flavor of all.

To serve, slice and add a little bit of good olive oil and sea salt and you’ve got locavore heaven on your plate and in your mouth.

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Lettuce Farmer Tim Rowan at the Pinecrest Gardens Green Market.

While most of us are still asleep, farmer Tim Rowan gets up on market days in the middle of the night, turns on the floodlight in his 3/4 acre field, and starts harvesting lettuce and cabbage by 4:30 a.m. The greens are only a few hours old by the time market opens. “That to me is creative,” Tim said. “Growing lettuce is creative. Getting it to customers within hours is creative. Anybody can load it in a box and ship it in. What I have growing that day is what I have at market.”

By 8 a.m. on a recent Sunday morning, Tim was set up underneath a large banyan tree at the Pinecrest Gardens Green Market. A poster size copy of his organic certification hung from the tree, and a big green and white Local & Organic sign was at the front of the table. It was heaped with cabbages and lettuces grown at The Lettuce Farm, Tim’s small certified organic farm located deep in Redland.

Last Sunday, a steady stream of customers and friends appeared at Tim’s table, and he greeted each person, remembering quite a few regulars by name. (He has been selling at this particular market since it started in 1996 in front of Gardner’s Market.) He chatted with them about their kids and families as he briskly bagged up their purchases of salad mix, butterhead lettuce, tatsoi, formosa cabbage and bok choy. A man came up asking for arugula. “All sold out,” Tim told him. “Come early for selection, come late for bargains.” The arugula was gone by 10 am, and almost everything else was gone an hour before the market closed.

Farmer Tim getting ready to weed his lettuce field.

Before farming, Tim was a chef at Mark’s Place. “Inspiration struck” when he saw all kinds of tropical fruit that came in to the kitchen from Ellenby Groves. His first taste of acidity of a Green Zebra heirloom tomato from Teena’s Pride made him realize that “this is real, fresh food. Growing heirloom tomatoes is something real,” he said. So he planted a backyard garden in 1990, expanded to growing heirloom tomatoes on a Kendall farm in 1992, and hasn’t stopped farming. “I saw the restaurant business as a dead end, and thought this was a way out,” he said.

But Tim is still a chef, working 50 to 55 hours a week at Deering Bay Yacht and Country Club. And he is still farming on a small scale. He bought his current place about seven years ago, and switched to growing several varieties of lettuces and cabbages that don’t require as much work to spray and fertilize. He plants late to avoid bugs. “Caterpillars are the biggest problem,” he explained. The greens are fairly sturdy and didn’t seem to be harmed too much by the recent cold. “Everything had a white coating of frost. I still don’t understand how this stuff can freeze for 12 hours and survive,” Tim said with amazement.

Farmer Tim and a very large cabbage.

His farm finally got certified by QCS (the Florida organic certifier) in 2003, a fact which Tim is proud of. “I got tired of explaining that I don’t spray. Having the certification makes a big difference,” he said. As an organic grower, Tim doesn’t use fertilizer, and instead relies on lots of compost to build up the marl soil of his farm.

Tim got into farming 15 years ago thinking he would stop being a chef, but he still has one foot in the kitchen. Instead, farming is what gives his life balance, feeds his soul and keeps him strong. “The farming part turns work more into a virtue,” he said at the end of a long day. “I go out in the morning and enjoy every part of it. It makes you feel great. There’s no drug that can give you the buzz like that. Clean living is good for your body, and mentally too. The older I get the easier it is to work. You realize how grateful you are to work and reap the benefits.”

Find The Lettuce Farm at these farmers markets: Pinecrest Gardens on Sunday, Key Biscayne on Saturday and Jackson Memorial on Thursday. His lettuces are also available at Norman Brothers Market in Kendall.

Follow The Lettuce Farm on Facebook

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There are a few new farmers markets, and one returning market,  opening up soon. Here’s a quick rundown of all-local, grower supported markets.

Monday 2 – 6 pm (starts Dec. 6)
Homestead Farmers Market
Losner Park, 104 N Krome Ave., Homestead

Wednesday and Friday 1 – 4 pm (starts Dec. 8th)
Roots in the City Farmers Market
NW 10 St. and 2nd Ave., Miami

Thursday 12 noon – 6pm (starts Dec. 2)
Liberty City Farmers Market
TACOLCY Park, 6161 NW 9th Ave., Miami

Saturday 9 am – 2 pm (starts Dec. 4)
South Miami Farmers Market
City Hall, 6130 Sunset Drive, South Miami

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The Pinecrest Gardens Green Market opened for the season two Sundays ago, and you couldn’t ask for a better day, sunny and cool, and not too humid. It was a great day to take the kids and dogs outside and stroll among the tents, shop for farm fresh produce and grab a bite to eat.

Farm intern helping shoppers with their purchases.

The big Redland Organics tent dominated the west entrance of the market, and its tables were loaded with a variety of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. It’s one of many sellers returning this year, and plenty more new ones were added to the mix. There are 50 vendors this year, according to Alana Perez, the Director of Pinecrest Gardens. I caught her prowling the market snapping pictures with her iPhone. She was delighted about the turnout on the first morning of the season. “This has really taken off, it’s huge!” she exclaimed. “The market has community support and it has a loyal following.” And the hungry community was there shopping up a storm. They lined up eight and ten deep to pay at the Redland Organics tent. By noon, Farmer Margie had sold out of grape tomatoes, all greens, and most fruit and vegetables. Only a few green peppers, zucchini, thai basil and some mamey remained.

Eggplants with schnozzles, proboscis, protruberances, and curlicues.

This year the market setup was a bit different. The tents were moved back to a row of banyan trees behind the main parking lot for the Gardens. It was hard to see tents from the road when I drove up. Then I spotted two small signs pointing me to the parking lot. Some vendors would have preferred to be visible from the street, like last year. But Alana Perez explained the move freed up more parking spaces. And Farmer Margie pointed out that the trees provide shade that helps keep produce from wilting in the heat.

Of the 50 vendors, there were more selling non-food items, like stoneware and solar systems. One produce seller groused, “It becomes more like bargaintown.” Bud and Linda, two shoppers who stopped to chat with me, love the market but had mixed feelings about its new incarnation. Bud told me, “I don’t want it to be like a flea market. There shouldn’t be anything that’s not edible.” Linda liked the old location by the street, and found the narrow aisles a bit claustrophobic. Both shop at the market to support local growers. “The people who are local are proud to be local,” Bud pointed out. “As for people who are not, it should be compulsory to say where the food came from.” (If they don’t have a sign, peek under the table at the produce boxes to discover where things came from.)

Farmer Nick offers a taste of local honey.

Most produce was local, and customers who want something that’s not ready for harvest right now will just have to wait a little longer. Overheard at the Redland Organics tent:

Customer: I want kale. Why don’t you have kale?
Farmer: Because it’s not ready yet. It’s not in season.
Customer: How come Whole Foods has kale?
Farmer: Because they get it from California!

Farmers markets are about eating in season, celebrating local food, and enjoying freshness you won’t find in any supermarket. Support your local farmers and you’ll support local families too.

Local food bloggers Laura Lafata of La Diva Cucina, Trina Sargalski of Miami Dish, and Paula Nino of Mango & Lime.

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