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In the market for fresh-from-the-farm? Hollywood’s the place to go

In South Florida, where agriculture has taken a back seat to development, Hollywood’s Yellow Green Market has sprouted up as a way to give farmers, artists and other entrepreneurs a venue to sell their goods, and consumers a chance to learn the origins of their food.

“Folks are turning back to having a relationship with their food,” said Danny Raulerson, bureau chief of state farmers markets. “They want to know where it comes from.”

Yellow Green shoppers can get everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to homemade soap and plants. They can sample fresh bread, pickles and roasted corn.

The barn-like market brings a country feel with life-size cow statues, plastic peppers hanging from the ceiling and yellow bales of hay.

More than 1,200 customers crowd into the 100,000-square-foot former steel factory each weekend, with estimates reaching 3,000 during the tourist season.

Among them: Yani Hermoso of Plantation, who bought a smoothie made with coconut milk for 3-year-old daughter Genesis, who is lactose-intolerant.

In a world where “everything is unhealthy,” Hermoso said, it’s nice to know that there is still a place to eat healthy and find options for better nutrition for her two children.

Lisa Dorfman, director of University of Miami’s Nutrition for Health and Human Performance graduate program, said people who eat healthy food enjoy a better quality of life.

“The quicker we get foods off the shelf and into our guts, the better off we are,” said Dorfman.

Raulerson said Florida has seen an increase in both state and community markets in the last four years. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, there are five state recognized markets in Broward and about 18 in Miami-Dade. There are many more community markets, but those are not tracked by the state.

The Hollywood market, which has about 160 vendors, just celebrated its 2-year anniversary, and manager Mark Menagh said the market continues to grow.

“It was something that was needed desperately,” said Menagh.

It is one of the largest in South Florida, with its permanent building, a year-round presence and more than 100 individual vendors. Many markets in South Florida are seasonal — closed for the summer — and are in areas where vendors set up canopies.

“There aren’t a lot of places like this,” said Menagh, who said there is room for more vendors. “People come from all over.”

Lisa Nieves, who lives in Miami Beach, said she makes the trip to Hollywood every week to buy her fruits and vegetables.

“To me, it so much fresher,” she said. “And it lasts longer.”

But getting the market started was not an easy task. The old steel factory wasn’t up to code for the market.

In November 2009, more than 1,000 people showed up for what was supposed to be opening day. Everyone was turned away because the building needed electrical and plumbing permits from Hollywood and Broward County.

It took nearly a year to straighten out the problems, and the market made its debut in October 2010.

In the beginning, booths were packed. But the off-season was tough.

Charla Moore, who has had a store there since the beginning, said there were timeswhen she questioned whether the market would survive.

“What got me through,” she said: “God and patience.”

She started out with gift baskets and gradually added food to her Big Umms menu. She said she brings a New Orleans flair to South Florida.

During the market’s two years, there has been a lot of turnover, which Menagh said is expected.

Currently, there are six vegetable vendors and variety of food vendors, including the Chill Bar, which offers organic food.

Menagh screens vendors, hoping to maintain a good variety. The No. 1 thing he looks for is passion.

“I want people who really believe in what they are doing,” he said.