Posts Tagged ‘Roots in the City’

Dr. Marvin Dunn tells it like it is, while Local 10’s Todd Tongen looks on.

This Wednesday things were definitely not business as usual at the Roots in the City Farmers Market in Overtown. All the vendors were gone — no Nature Boyz, no Redland Organics, no Hani’s goat cheese. Members of the media, including three TV stations and four bloggers, were interviewing curious neighbors, and protesters with signs milled around. Only one tent belonging to RITC was up at noon, and market manager Maggi Pons was stacking collards, yellow squash, scallions and other produce as if it were a normal day at the market. Only she wasn’t selling — she was giving it all away because the market couldn’t sell anything.

Maggi Pons, RITC market manager, and the media.

Last week the owner of the land that the market sits on had been served with a notice of violation. The South Florida Smart Growth Land Trust was cited by the City of Miami for “illegal sale of fruits and merchandise from open stands and vacant lots” and “failure to obtain a Class I special permit.” The market is allegedly illegal, and the media reported last week that it would be shut down. “It’s not just the wrong permit,” Maggi Pons fumed. “It’s a lot more complicated than that. The city doesn’t have a permit for a fresh produce market, so we have to take out a special events permit, good for only two times a year.”

Mayor Tomas Regalado sent two spokesmen to try to smooth the waters and clarify the situation. Alan Morley insisted that the mayor “loves the market.” He explained the city only wants the market to get the proper permits and licensing, not shut it down, and they have until the weekend to comply. “Certain criteria have to be met. They didn’t go through the right permit process,” he stressed.

Asha Loring came to shop and joined the protest.

According to Pat Santangelo, the other spokesman, it’s all a big misunderstanding. “We have a lot of unnecessary paranoia,” he said. “If you’re going to run the market as a business, you need to comply with certain things.” He pointed out that the market required an annual certificate of use permit, a Class I permit, and a business tax receipt, and fees would be waived or reduced. When I asked Santangelo if the Class I permit was the two-times-a-year special events permit that market leaders were distressed about, he explained that it was an “unlimited” permit. (He said it was an “annual” permit, as quoted by Local 10 News.)

Yet market founder Dr. Marvin Dunn claimed he repeatedly called the city about the violation and didn’t get an answer. It got him hot under the collar, so he rounded up protesters and alerted the media. He said he got the certificate of use since the very beginning. The only solution he saw is to request a resolution from the city commission to allow his market to operate for six months at a time. But even that is politically uncertain, and as Dunn put it, “Who can run a market on a whim?”

Not all the vendors were happy about a day off. Instead of selling produce on Wednesday, Farmer Margie Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farm stayed home. “Since we won’t be there, we won’t be bringing fresh, local, organic veggies to the underserved, food desert neighborhood. And, we won’t be employing the local resident that helps us with the setup and breakdown each week. How does that help anyone??” she said.

Neighbor James Branson is thankful for the food.

Wednesday’s free food giveaway was a big hit with the neighbors. Three women staggered away with four grocery bags brimming with collards and other produce. Area resident James Branson was delirious about his full shopping bag. “God is good,” he exclaimed, pointing to the sky. “Give thanks for the food on the table!” Neighbors who came late were disappointed. By 1:20 p.m. the RITC tables were completely empty of produce and the tent came down.

Giving food away may work in the short term, but in the long term it’s not a solution to either the problem of permits and codes — or developing a local food economy. It appears the City of Miami doesn’t have an ordinance that specifically applies to farmers markets. Spokesman Santangelo called the situation with RITC “a good learning process” for market people to learn how to comply with existing regulations. Yet he gave no answer when asked how the city can help this market (or others) navigate the permitting process smoothly and quickly.

Fresh veggies up for grabs.

The local food movement is growing, but it’s a slow and painful process. For every step forward, it appears there are two steps back. Farmers markets are the best way for small local growers to find buyers, and for buyers to find fresh, local produce at a fair price, especially in underserved neighborhoods. Instead of trying to shoehorn market compliance into codes that were written to address different situations that don’t quite fit, perhaps a new ordinance needs to be passed to support markets and allow the local food scene to flourish. (While Miami takes a tough stance on code enforcement, South Miami willingly embraces its new grower supported market.) Whichever the city, the most important thing is to get fresh food into the hands of people who need it most and have grown to count on it.

In the Media:

Read about the protest at CBS 4, Local 10 and the Miami Herald here and here. Mango & Lime has a thoughtful post and an update about zoning and permits (at the bottom of the page). Read Dr. Marvin Dunn’s letter to the editor in the Miami Herald. Read Commissioner Richard Dunn’s letter to the editor here. Read about Dr. Dunn’s “Food Justice for Overtown” protest here. Read about Marvin Dunn’s negotiations with the Overtown CRA officials here.

RITC Farmers Market got media attention.

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Dr. Marvin Dunn surveys the Roots in the City garden and market.

The Roots in the City Farmers Market in Overtown opened on Wednesday Dec. 8th for its second season. You may remember that it ran for a couple months, March and April, earlier this year. Now it’s back at the same corner of NW 10 St. and 2 Ave. in Miami, and it’s grown a bit bigger with two new vendors, Gardens of TROY and Nature Boyz. The same growers from the first time are there also — RITC Gardens, Teena’s Pride, Redland Organics and Hani’s Mediterranean Organics.

The first day of the season called for Grand Opening festivities and VIPs. It wasn’t as crazy a party as last spring, but all the important people were there — chef Michael Schwartz, chef Michel Nischan, a PBS video crew, Farmer Margie and her intern Liberty, students from nearby Phyllis Wheatley Elementary, Dr. Marvin Dunn, Teena and Michael, an assortment of foodies and neighborhood shoppers, and most of the food bloggers in town.

Market co-founder and chef Michael Schwartz  brought his food cart, and his crew dished out grilled rosemary chicken garden vegetable chopped salad, which was quickly devoured. The recipe was created by a student from Phyllis Wheatley Elementary, where chef Michael recently visited, as part of the new Chefs Move to Schools program.Schwartz’s market partner, chef Michel Nischan, loped up and down the row of tents, stopping to greet growers and shoppers. Michel’s foundation, Wholesome Wave, donated matching funds to use with SNAP aka food stamps, good for up to $20 per person per day. Last season, a large number of people used the matching funds tokens to supplement their shopping.Chef Michel Nischon (plaid shirt) is trailed by producer Jon Crane and his crew, while farmer Margie Pikarsky looks on.

Michel was trailed by a PBS crew shooting a segment about him for the AARP show “My Generation.” He was speaking passionately about food and urban farming with producer Jon Crane. “You can be poor but still grow food and be sustainable. Brooklyn had gardens and chickens years ago. There are so many great stories in this community,” he said, looking around. “Food gives a person a sense of place, self esteem and security, and it reaches across all socio-economic strata. All differences melt away with good local food.”

Chef Michael Schwartz chats with Ben Thacker, Jepson Jean-Pierre and Antonio Moss from TROY Academy, while Alexandra Rangel videotapes.

Michael Schwartz stopped by to chat with two TROY Community Academy students and Ben Thacker, their gardening program director. Some of the things for sale at their tent were callaloo, carrots, passion fruit, aloe plants, and garlic chives. “Each kid has his own garden,” Ben said, “and they get to keep the money from selling their crops. All the kids are eating it.” Michael replied quickly, “Don’t eat it, sell it!” Ben said, “We’re trying to get them to eat more fruit.” “Ok, eat it!” Michael responded. The students laughed. Videographer Alexandra Rangel hovered nearby with her camera, capturing the conversation for a promotional fundraising video for TROY.

Several large, perfect cabbages at Teena’s Pride tent caught my eye, along with exotic looking pattypan squash. There were red round tomatoes, cucumbers, and an assortment of other veggies and fresh herbs. All those and more can be yours on a weekly basis if you join the Teena’s Pride CSA. It’s not too late to sign up, and there are about 100 spots left. For prices and details, email farm@teenaspride.com or call 786-243-1714.

Marguerite the Nubian goat hangs out with Hani Khouri and his wife Mary Lee, while customers sample fresh goat cheese.

Over at the other end of the market, Marguerite the Nubian goat was hanging out with her humans, ice cream and cheese makers Hani and Mary Lee Khouri of Hani’s Mediterranean Organics. Of course everybody had to come over to take pictures of the goat… pet the goat… sample the ice cream… maybe get a falafel wrap… At the next tent, Farmer Margie had a large array of fruits, vegetables and herbs. She’s also set up to take SNAP funds and credit cards.

It was a pleasant afternoon in the neighborhood, and the most important people there were the people who live in the area shopping for fresh food. During the spring, the beginning of market was slow but by the end of the second month, a good number of regulars from the neighborhood came by. If things go like last season, every week will draw more people out of their food desert to partake of locally grown bounty.

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This season’s grand opening of the Roots in the City Farmers Market is on Wednesday Dec. 8, from 1 to 4 pm. The market will be held in the same place it was last year, on the corner of NW 10th St. and 2nd Ave. in Overtown, right by the RITC gardens.

This market is one of several in the area where real growers (not produce re-sellers) are participating. Returning this season are RITC itself, selling collards, papaya and other delicacies from its gardens, Redland Organics, Teena’s Pride and Hani’s Mediterranean Organics.

The RITC Farmers Market was also the first market in the area to accept SNAP/EBT payments, and doubles the value of purchases up to $10, thanks to a generous program sponsored by Wholesome Wave Foundation.

This season the market will be open two days a week, Wednesdays and Fridays. It will stay open through April 2011. For more information, email RITC or call 305-772-3229.

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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 rescheduled and much awaited CNN report on the Roots in the City Farmers Market aired last night on Anderson Cooper 360. Did you miss it? (I did.) You can watch it online here, on the AC360 blog. Catch a glimpse of our fruit expert Melissa Contreras explaining tamarind to CNN correspondent John Zarella and Chef Michel Nischan.

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Correction: The CNN report on the Roots in the City Farmers Market has been rescheduled and will air on Tuesday May 4 at 10 pm on the Anderson Cooper show.

The media — most recently national TV news, along with local newspapers, TV and local food blogs — has been all over Roots in the City Farmers Market. It’s a small market, just four or five tents by the side of the road in a very poor neighborhood. From a distance it doesn’t look too special. But it is, and that’s why the media keeps coming back.

The big deal is that the Roots market is the first farmers market in Florida specifically created to use the Double Value Coupon Program, funded by Wholesome Wave. The coupons enable people purchasing with food stamps (SNAP/EBT) to buy twice as much, up to $20, using special tokens. The program is already in 80 markets in 12 states, but those markets already existed and had food stamp program in place before Wholesome Wave came in.

Melissa Contreras (left) explains tropical fruit.

National TV news visited last week. On Wednesday April 21, a CNN crew consisting of reporter John Zarella, his cameraman Mike, and a field producer who was darting around with a notebook, hung out at the market all afternoon. Most of the people who created the market were on hand for interviews. Founder and Chef Michel Nischan chatted with a lot of enthusiasm on camera. Chef Michael Schwartz and Dr. Marvin Dunn (and several family members) were on hand for interviews, along with people from the Human Services Coalition. A school group came by, and the kids looked at, touched and tasted different fresh vegetables. Several people who came to shop were also interviewed. Some came over from downtown (where more than half of the shoppers are coming from), and some from the neighborhood.

Melissa Contreras, who was helping out at the Redland Rambles tent, spoke on camera about different tropical fruits — tamarind, canistel and black sapote — that were available. Farmer Teena Borek sliced up a hothouse cucumber and was handing out samples, and suddenly everyone around was eating cucumber and liking it. Mike the cameraman was bedazzled by pretty vegetables and took lots of video of carrots. And cucumbers. And greens. Zarella stopped to buy a small bottle of tupelo honey from the Redland Organics tent before they wrapped up for the day.

Mike the cameraman really likes carrots.

The market has plenty of funding, and is gradually picking up steam. According to Caitlin McLaren of the Human Services Coalition, the Wholesome Wave Foundation gave them a grant of $11 thousand to pay for tokens and farmers. By the fourth week of the market, they still have plenty of money left, having spent about $400 in matching funds. It’s taken a while but the market finally has more EBT than cash sales. Farmer Margie said that about half her sales are EBT and she’s getting regulars. “One lady was already here at 12 waiting while we were setting up,” she said, and added that several homeless people come by from week to week to get food.

Douglas Dunn, who helps run the Roots community garden, explained “The market attracts a lot of white Hispanics. About 70 per cent of the customers work close by and drive by, or have read about it in the paper. It’s going to take some time to get the word out.” As Douglas explained that to me, a man walking across the street called out, “Do you take food stamps?” Yes was the answer. The man stopped for a moment, said he’d be back and headed down the street.

Hani and Mary Lee talk about goat milk ice cream on camera.

Unfortunately the growing season is winding down as the weather gets hotter, and the market will close sometime in May. There might be fruit sales in the summer, but that isn’t certain yet. It all depends on what the farmers have to sell. Market manager Maggie Pons said they’re definitely going to be back in the fall. Hopefully the market will take off, for the sake of the people who need it the most.

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Just a reminder that the Grand Opening Celebration of the new Roots in the City Farmers Market will be next Wednesday, on April 7, starting at 1 pm.

Scheduled festivities: Ribbon-cutting, performances by the Booker T. Washington High School Band and Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink will offer complimentary samples of dishes from the school’s cookbook, created with the market’s fresh produce.

There’s a great picture of Farmer Margie in the Miami Herald today! It’s on page 2A, or you can see it online.

Affordable farmers market nourishes Overtown residents

A new farmers market aims to make fresh fruits and vegetables accessible to Overtown residents.


Sarah Wallace can barely remember what it was like to eat fresh spinach, collard greens and carrots. It has been years since she has been able to afford any of her favorite fresh vegetables on $40 a month in food stamps.

Typically, Wallace makes do with canned beans and corn. That’s why she couldn’t help fighting back tears at the recent opening of the Roots in the City Farmers Market across the street from her Overtown apartment.

What makes this market different from others around South Florida is that it offers lower-income consumers the opportunity to eat healthy by using their food stamps to make subsidized purchases. For every $1 in food stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program dollars, they get $2 worth of fresh fruits and vegetables. The limit: $20 per day of free produce.

Wallace, who has lived in Overtown her whole life, didn’t believe the market was going to happen until she saw the trial run for herself last Wednesday. She walked away with a big bag of fresh produce and the hope that it dispels the notion that African Americans don’t want to eat fresh vegetables.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/03/30/1555973/affordable-food-nourishes-neighborhood.html

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