Posts Tagged ‘Urban Oasis Project’

Beekeeper Debra Roberts and friend

Beekeeper Debra Roberts and friend

Urban Oasis Project is sponsoring two weekend beekeeping workshops on February 1-2, 2014, taught by world-traveling beekeeper Debra Roberts. No experience necessary for the beginner’s class.

Natural Beekeeping for BEEginners:
Come explore honeybee basics, hive equipment and tools, good stewardship practices, how to go through a hive (without bees), and treatment-free (“natural”) beekeeping. Session tailored for BEEginners with no experience (those who think they might like to have bees in the future or just want to learn more about them).

$85 – Full day, Saturday Feb 1 only, at the Kampong in Coconut Grove.
$125 – Full intensive includes Saturday at Kampong in Coconut Grove, and half day on Sunday morning at Verde Farm in Homestead (includes hands-on with bees).

Natural Beekeeping for Beekeepers with Experience:

This session is for beekeepers who have a little to a lot of beekeeping experience, who want to explore treatment-free beekeeping options. Please bring your questions. This afternoon will be tailor-made for what best serves you.

$50 – Half day on Sunday afternoon at Verde Farm.

Note: BEEginners who have taken the intensive are welcome to join the Sunday afternoon session for an additional fee. Please inquire.

Details and Registration: on the Urban Oasis Project web site.
No refunds after January 20th.
Email questions to admin@urbanoasisproject.org .

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(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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Browsing for organic seedlings at the Bee Heaven Farm tent.

Browsing for organic seedlings at the Bee Heaven Farm tent.

(part 1 of 2)

Back for its second year this October, GrowFest! was the event for gardeners and locavores. Despite rain on Saturday afternoon and a slow start on Sunday morning, well over 1300 adults and kids came to the Fruit and Spice Park to browse for plants and nosh on good eats. Farmer Margie Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farm, who organized the event (along with a group of fantastic volunteers), was delighted that the event is growing.

This year there was a mix of familiar and new vendors and exhibitors, a few less than last year, but each was worth checking out. Gardeners had plenty of plants to look at and buy, locavores found delicious things to taste, and there were plenty of interesting and knowledgeable people to talk to, with a wide variety of demos to attend.


The best way to carry mass quantities of seedlings!

Bee Heaven Farm had its usual sea of organic seedlings. Along with dozens of varieties of heirloom tomatoes, you could also choose from a selection of vegetables, herbs and greens that grow well in our climate and are regularly raised at the farm. In response to customer demand, there were several varieties of eggplant, sweet and hot peppers, Asian greens, and intriguing herbs like lemongrass, curryleaf, turmeric (new this year).

Farm intern Nicole Fiori helps a customer choose heirloom tomato seedlings.

Farm intern Nicole Fiori (right)helps a customer choose heirloom tomato seedlings.

A big thanks to farm employee Luz, intern Nicole, and volunteers Dhilini, Alhen and Holly who were on hand all weekend!

Selecting loofahs and goat's milk soap.

Selecting loofahs and goat’s milk soap.

New this year was the addition of Flair’s Fayre line of goat milk products. The husband and wife team of Pat Houle and Dan McGillicuddy, along with their assistant Christine, were on hand with offerings of raw goat milk and cheeses (for pet consumption only), and an assortment of deliciously aromatic soaps that were very popular. All products are made with milk from their small herd of goats.

Margie Pikarsky, Marty Mesh and Steven Green discuss matters at the FOG tent.

Margie Pikarsky, Marty Mesh and Steven Green discuss matters at the FOG tent.

At the Florida Organic Growers and Consumers Inc. (FOG) tent, folks were selling chilled Uncle Matt’s organic citrus juices and sharing information on organic certification. Marty Mesh, the executive director, returned this year along with several staffers who were thrilled to introduce their newest statewide program, Fresh Access Bucks (FAB).

Staffer Carmen Franz explained that FAB doubles value, up to $20, that SNAP recipients can use to buy Florida grown fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets. So far, FABs are accepted at Urban Oasis Project farmers markets and Bee Heaven Farm (in this area). This new program is funded by a grant from the state agriculture department, and Wholesome Wave, a non-profit which pioneered matching funds. Become a member to help FOG support “a sustainable and just food and farm system for all.”

Two Innovative Farmers of the Year! Margie Pikarsky (2013) and Gabriele Marewski (2012).

Two Innovative Farmers of the Year! Margie Pikarsky (2013) and Gabriele Marewski (2012).

Farmer Gabriele Marewski of Paradise Farms Organic brought two kinds of salads: cactus salad made with nopalitos, and her signature Baby Brassica Blend which includes a colorful sprinkling of edible flowers. The farm is known for its elegant, gourmet Dinner in Paradise and Brunch in Paradise series, season starting soon.

Alfredo Anez, Katie Sullivan and Gretchen Schmidt are the key people who produce Edible South Florida.

Alfredo Anez, Katie Sullivan and Gretchen Schmidt are the key people who produce Edible South Florida.

Edible South Florida magazine debuted their latest issue, which is all about local food. Many local growers and artisans are featured, and if you haunt farmers markets and locavore restaurants and cafes, they may be familiar to you too — Helen Cole’s jerky, Hani’s falafel, and Zak’s bread to name a few. I spotted a picture of farmer Margie on page 23. (Next to it is a brief essay I wrote about Farm Day.) You can pick up a copy for free at Whole Foods, Joanna’s Marketplace and other locations around town.

Giant African Land Snails (GALS) in carious stages of growth. A sample of their eggs is in the upper right corner.

Giant African Land Snails (GALS) in various stages of growth. A sample of their eggs is in the upper right corner.

And the villain of GrowFest! was back for an encore — the Giant African Land Snail (GALS). It’s an invasive species that devours over 500 kinds of plants and is capable of munching stucco off your house. Fully grown, the snail is as big as your hand, and has unique vertical jagged stripes on its shell. If you see a GALS in your yard, absolutely do NOT touch it! Call the state Division of Plant Industry at 888-397-1517 to come get it. These snails can harbor a microscopic nematode that can infect your brain and kill you. Over 131,000 GALS have been located and captured in South Florida in the past two years.

Grower Arturo Gonzalez, of Margarita's Fruits & Vegetables brought a forest of mango and avocado saplings.

Grower Arturo Gonzalez, of Margarita’s Fruit Trees, brought a forest of mango and avocado saplings.


Bananas and plantains at Going Bananas


Beekeeping books and supplies from South Florida Bee Supplies.

Carnivorous plants from Envy Botanicals

Carnivorous plants from Envy Botanicals

Landscaping plants at Casey's Corner Nursery

Landscaping plants at Casey’s Corner Nursery.

Fresh potted herbs from Teena's Pride Farm

Fresh potted herbs from Teena’s Pride Farm.

Learn how to compost with worms, from the Fertile Earth Foundation.

Learn how to compost with worms, from the Fertile Earth Foundation.

Kamala Fletcher, Christiana Serlé, and Mike Moskos of the South Florida Food Policy Council

Kamala Fletcher, Christiana Serlé, and Mike Moskos of the South Florida Food Policy Council discuss the community’s food issues.

Ken Holden advocates incorporating Redland

Ken Holden advocates incorporating Redland.

Buy native plants from the Urban Paradise Guild

Buy native plants from the Urban Paradise Guild

(To be continued…)

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Three vendors at the Brownsville Farmers Market offer Argentinean empanadas, fresh local and organic produce from Urban Oasis Project, and Tommie's Gourmet Comfort Food.

Three vendors at the Brownsville Farmers Market offer Argentine empanadas, fresh local and organic produce from Urban Oasis Project, and Tommie’s Gourmet Comfort Food.

Brownsville Farmers Market is small, a clutch of three tents set up in the entrance plaza of the Jesse Trice Community Health Center. But this is where Melissa Contreras of the Urban Oasis Project non-profit, and her assistants, set up shop this season, selling fresh, local and organic fruits and vegetables to the underserved community nearby.

The market is a welcome patch of green in an area not known for healthy eats. The afternoon I came to visit, the place was bustling with staffers and clients of the health center. I had just missed the lunch rush, but got swept up in the cheerful chaos of a group of women leaving a wellness class. They sampled bits of fruit and grabbed up cauliflower picked just 24 hours earlier. Melissa greeted many people by name and cheerfully answered questions. The market accepts EBT and offers matching funds up to $20. One man had a $10 matching token burning a hole in his pocket, which he had received from the center for reaching a health milestone. He carefully chose two golden papayas, bunches of fresh herbs, and a bag of Shawnee’s Green Thumb spirulina popcorn as a treat.

Diverse families come to shop for fresh produce they can't get anywhere else in the neighborhood.

Diverse families come to shop for fresh produce they can’t get anywhere else in the neighborhood.

A woman who comes every week to shop for her family of eight children left with three large boxes of vegetables and a potted African Basil plant the size of a shrub. “This is the only place in Brownsville where she can get vegetables to feed her family,” Melissa said. “This is a food desert.” She explained that a food desert is an area where its residents do not have access to fresh produce and other healthy foods. The residents have to shop at small neighborhood markets that don’t stock much by way of fresh produce.

The Brownsville market moved around and changed names a bit. Originally it was known as the Liberty City market located at the TACOLCY Center. Because of permit issues, it moved to the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, then moved again to this current location and changed names. Last year, the market was funded by grants from the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) initiative, a federal grant administered by the county’s Consortium for a Healthier Miami-Dade. “This year, we are purely self-funded,” Melissa explained,”Our SNAP matching funds, which are a separate program, are from Wholesome Wave, as they are for all of our markets.”

Melissa Contreras, John Lewis (Sistrunk and PATCH market), Sharon Yeago (consultant), Brett Johnson and Rachelle Lawson-Norwood from PATCH market.

Left to right: Melissa Contreras, John Lewis (Sistrunk and PATCH markets), Sharon Yeago (market consultant), Brett Johnson and Rachelle Lawson-Norwood from PATCH market.

As luck would have it, I got to meet Sharon Yeago, a local food activist and farmers market consultant, who was visiting that afternoon. She was accompanied by representatives of two new farmers markets in Dania Beach (PATCH) and Sistrunk, and stopped to chat for a moment. Sharon was instrumental in helping Urban Oasis get grants for the Brownsville market, and had helped get funding for four other new farmers markets in Miami-Dade. For the past year, Sharon’s been working in Broward to develop new markets through TOUCH (Transforming Our Community’s Health) Broward, a program of the Broward Regional Health Planning Council that also helps underserved residents get access to healthy food.

The Brownsville market is seasonal and will close in two weeks on April 17, following the winter growing season here. It will reopen sometime in fall. After the market closes, the mother of eight and other regulars will have to travel quite a bit further to shop at the next nearest local-grower-supported market. (That would be the Upper Eastside Farmers Market on 66 St. and Biscayne Blvd. It’s also run by Urban Oasis, and is open year round.) But at least there is another market that she can go to.

It took a lot of hard work and determination on the part of Brownsville market organizers to navigate their way through permit and zoning challenges, and to gather funding to get started. But the people of Urban Oasis have proved that it can be done, again and again, despite the odds. Hopefully Miami-Dade County can streamline the process to allow more farmers markets with less governmental difficulties. There aren’t that many sources of fresh produce in the food desert, yet the need is so great.

Brownsville Farmers Market at Jesse Trice Community Health Center
5361 NW 22nd Ave.
Miami FL 33142
Wednesdays from 11 am -2 pm
Seasonal, open through April 17, 2013 (resumes in Fall)

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Vendors set up at the new Southwest Community Farmers' Market.

Vendors set up at the new Southwest Community Farmers’ Market.

Southwest Community Farmers Market
open Saturdays 9-2, from Dec. 1, 2012 to June 15, 2013

Unitarian Universalist Congregation
7701 SW 76 Ave
South Miami FL

A new farmer’s market opened up in South Miami last Saturday, Dec. 1st. The Southwest Community Farmers Market is a grassroots, volunteer operation organized by city’s Green Task Force, with the mission “to provide local, organic and sustainable food for the community.”

On opening day, about a dozen vendors set up in a large grassy area behind the Unitarian Universalist church. If you are not familiar with the church property, park along the east side and walk back to the tents. There should be signs to direct you. You will not see the market from the street.

Luigi and Melissa of Urban Oasis Project.

Luigi and Melissa of Urban Oasis Project.

Urban Oasis was offering their usual beautiful and fresh assortment of locally sourced, and sustainably or organically grown produce, and is providing doubling funds for EBT shoppers. Art Friedrich was also brought in as a consultant to help start the market.

Coconut Grove Farms and Laura’s Produce were the other two produce vendors (but not everything they were selling was local or organic). For those with a sweet tooth, this market is heaven, as there were several vendors selling sweet breads, jams and jellies, and honey. Located in the back were musicians jamming on drums and a sitar, and Bricolage, a community vintage sale where neighbors can buy and sell older and unique household items. Other vendors include: Tattooed Beekeeper’s Wife, Spice Galore, Freakin Flamingo, Tante Leah’s Handmades, Crackerman, Siggi’s Organics, Cafe Luigi, Kami’s Kitchen, Odell Massage, and Roc Kat Ice Cream. (Some vendors had participated in the now-defunct South Miami Farmers Market once run by Mario Yanez’s non-profit Earth Learning.)

Annick Sternberg, who chairs the market committee, is thrilled that the market is up and running. “I want this to work,” she told me with a note of determination. Mayor Philip Stoddard walked around chatting to vendors and shoppers. Everyone involved has high hopes for this market to succeed, and believes that hands-on community involvement is key. Copme on out and support this new market! It’s worth the effort to find.



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(Part 2 of 2)

Two Sundays ago, the second day of GrowFest!, I took a break from selling seedlings at the Bee Heaven Farm tent to stroll around and visit some of the vendors. It wasn’t all plants at GrowFest!. There was plenty to try and buy, much like a farmers market.

Melissa’s new book is available for pre-sale.

The first tent I saw when I entered the park belonged to Urban Oasis Project, one of the event sponsors. Had a chance to chat with Melissa Contreras, founder of the local non-profit. She is extremely knowledgeable about growing food, and spent the last year writing her new book, Organic Gardening in South Florida, and Marty Mesh wrote the foreword. It will be published by the University of Florida Press in February 2013, and is available for pre-order for the reduced price of $25 at the Urban Oasis web site.

Organic farmer Gabriele Marewski (left) at the Paradise Farms tent with some of her flax crackers and organic herbal teas.

Since I have limited space for growing plants on my Balcony Farm and didn’t want to get too many, I was more interested tasting local food and drink. And there was plenty of it on hand, almost all made using locally sourced ingredients. Paradise Farms Organic had an assortment of flax seed crackers called “jump food,” (a play on “junk food”) but their dried oyster mushroom snacks were very popular and sold out before I could nibble on a crumb. Farmer Gabriele Marewski also offered a line of herbal teas made from dried herbs and flowers grown on her certified organic farm.

Grower Sal Santelli with samples of his candy-sweet organic mamey. Bet you can’t eat just one bite!

Got to savor the sweetest mamey grown by Sal Santelli of Health and Happiness Farm. Hope he didn’t notice that I sampled more than one piece from the tray he had set out. Sal was quick to point out that he’s the only commercial grower of certified organic mamey in South Florida. He also had avocados, sunflower sprouts, pea shoots and arugula for sale. (Bee Heaven Farm CSA members have gotten his sprouts in their shares the past season.)

Salt farmer Midge Jolly with samples of salts, spices and sponges.

Nearby was the Florida Keys Sea Salt tent, where salt farmers Midge and Tom offered tastes of different kinds of salt harvested from seawater gathered from a flowing channel between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Midge told me that they’re the only artisan sea salt farmer south of Charleston. Each package of salt is labeled with the date and celestial event/holiday when it was harvested. Midge explained that the season and weather have a great deal of influence on how the seawater evaporates, and what kinds of flavor nuances and texture the salt develops. She also brought buttonwood smoked salt (my favorite), gomasio, and seaweed-flax crackers. Brought home a packet of her newest product, an incredibly aromatic spice blend called Kopan Masala that is sure to liven up anything I’ll cook. You can find their salts at various shops in the Keys, several farmers markets, or order online. (Florida Keys Sea Salt is also available as a Bee Heaven Farm CSA share add-on.)

Miguel Bode has a wide assortment of local and Florida honey.

Two beekeepers, Miguel Bode and Rigo De La Portilla aka the Tattooed Beekeeper, were selling their honey. Miguel Bode keeps hives at Bee Heaven Farm and Paradise Farms, among other local spots. His wildflower honey (which I have been buying for years) is available to Bee Heaven Farm CSA members either as part of their share or as an add-on.

Rigo De La Portilla, The Tattooed Beekeeper, and his wife Eliza with honey, lip balm and other handcrafted bee products.

Rigo gave several demos on backyard beekeeping on both days, and brought sample hives. Over at his tent, along with different size bottles of wildflower honey, I found candles and balms and other beeswax products which his wife Eliza makes. I smoothed on a rich, honey-scented lip balm with propolis that immediately soothed my lips, and sniffed the delicate scent of honey and goat’s milk soap. Eliza aka The Tattoooed Beekeeper’s Wife has a wide assortment of bee products that can be ordered online at her Etsy shop.

In the Battle of the Sliders, the reigning champs: grass-fed beef sliders prepared by Chef Adri Garcia.

Several people were selling juices and water, but the best drink of all was a lightly sweetened, aromatic allspice tea at the Urban Oasis Project tent. The refreshing tea with the spicy, addictive flavor was brewed from leaves of a plant grown by Melissa. “I grew the allspice myself from a seedling purchased from the UM Gifford Arboretum about eight to10 years ago,” she said. “The tea is a popular item at our potlucks. I have also made it into a homemade soda — tropical root beer!”

In the Battle of the Sliders, the contender: grilled crab cake prepared by Jason Mira of Native Conch.

My eating and drinking tour concluded at the “food court” of several prepared food vendors and picnic tables. Over at the lime green and pink Native Conch trailer, Jason, George Mira’s son, made me a grilled crab cake made from lump crab meat mixed with panko crumbs. It was tasty but I still love their conch salad. The line for falafel wraps and jackfruit curry (which sold out quickly) at Hani Khouri’s tent was a mile long, but I was too hungry and impatient to wait.

Took my growling stomach to Chef Adri Garcia’s tent to get some Florida raised grass-fed beef sliders seasoned just so. They were topped with sauteed onion and peppers, and served with a local mixed greens salad from Paradise Farms, dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette. Not bad for festival food! For dessert there was Roc Kat Ice Cream, a recent addition to the local food scene. I had hoped for a scoop of pineapple brown sugar ice cream, but it had sold out. Roc Kat sells handcrafted ice cream all around town, so look at their site to track them down.

Farmer Margie with the last serving of jackfruit curry. But I got a taste and it was good…

What’s a festival without music? Around the corner from the food court the music tent was set up. On Saturday, kids from the Robert Morgan Education Center String Chamber Ensemble played. The talented teens were really quite good! On Sunday, local singer-songwriter Grant Livingston sang his original playful and witty songs about life in Florida, including my favorites “Homestead” and “Armadillo.” Oh-ee-oh-ee-oh!

Robert Morgan Education Center String Chamber Ensemble

Singer-songwriter Grant Livingston

(Additional vendors and exhibitors not listed earlier in the vendors post, or mentioned above, were Edible South Florida and Tropical Fruit & Vegetable Society.)

Cuckita “Cookie” Bellande and her husband. Their Rochelois Jams are made from locally grown tropical fruit, and the flavors are worthy of a happy dance. Try monstera, jakfruit, and calamondin.

If you missed GrowFest! this year, it will be back at the Fruit and Spice Park again next year. “Yes, we’ll do it again,” Margie said. “This will be the ‘go to’ place to gather what you need to grow and garden. Next year, we can plan on even more types of seedlings (or seeds) and plants, fertilizer, garden tools, pots, etc.” If you missed out on getting tomato and vegetable seedlings from Bee Heaven Farm, “we’ll have some starts when we return to Pinecrest in December,” Margie added.

To see more pictures, check out the GrowFest 2012 album on my Facebook page, and the Bee Heaven Farm’s Facebook page.

At the Bee Heaven Farm tent.

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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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