South Florida may not be a winter wonderland, but thanks to the subtropical climate we can enjoy an abundance of fresh produce and outdoor fun. Now that the harvest season is here, it’s prime time for getting in touch with nature and supporting local growers. You might even find the perfect ingredients for that Thanksgiving feast.
“The whole farm-to-table concept … I like that,” said Albert Maruri, who frequently visits the South Dade Farmers Market in Tropical Park with his dog, Under, in search of fruit smoothies.
The South Dade Farmer’s Market, formerly held in South Miami, is open on Saturdays. Among about a dozen vendors, Benny Fruits and Vegetables sells produce from Martha’s U-Pick/Corona Farm in Homestead. The tables are stocked with ripe papayas, bright red tomatoes, bell peppers, and more.
Nearby, Authentic Northern Indian Cuisine offers homemade dips featuring different levels of spiciness. Richard and Ramona Checo sell ready-to-eat healthy food and sweets. There’s also homemade honey and Moringa juice.
Like some other markets in the area, the South Dade Farmers Market accepts food stamps (EBT card purchases are doubled for the first $20), helping to make organic, healthy food more accessible for all.
“People who can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods and stores like that live in a sort of food desert,” said Annick Sternberg, the market’s coordinator. “We want to be local and bring food as healthy as possible to people.”
Farmers markets are also a way for local businesses to introduce their products and services.
Natalia Tapia owns and operates Sweet Armoire Cakes from her home under the Florida Cottage Food Law, which allows individuals to operate a home-based bakery or food business.
She sells sweet confections, such as cupcakes, cookies, brownies, and traditional Argentinian alfajores at the Downtown Farmers Market at the Southeast Financial Building every Thursday. But her specialty is cakes for special occasions.
“I use the farmers market as a way to give people a taste of what I can make,” Tapia said.
Geared toward the business population and young professionals settled in downtown, the downtown also features smoothies, essential oils and handmade soaps, artisan baked goods, orchids, and cooked Mediterranean/Aegean food.
“I have customers who come down from the offices with stress from work. I can prescribe them holistic healing,” said Patricia Phang Sang Chase, a Reiki practitioner and owner of Healing Blends products for the body, mind and spirit.
In recent years, farmers markets have begun popping up in uncommon places, such as the Government Center Metrorail Station, university campuses and hospitals. In addition to food, there are chair massages, yoga classes, clothing for sale, crafts, pumpkin carving other activities for children.
Claire Tomlin, president and founder of The Market Company since 1997, organizes farmers markets in about seven different locations throughout the county, including the Upper East Side, Lincoln Road, Key Biscayne, and downtown Miami. She said interest is growing, especially among young people.
“We’ve all discovered how fresh local produce is,” said Tomlin. “There’s a real movement to make sure the food we eat is good and take it directly to the public.”
Some of the most established and longest-running include Lincoln Road, Pinecrest Farmers Market and the Coconut Grove Organic Farmers Market. Each is unique and reflects the community it serves, making it a great place to discover and absorb the local scene.