New farmers market at Biscayne Plaza

A new weekly farmer’s market launches this Saturday at the Biscayne Plaza in the Upper Eastside, and it has a purpose that goes beyond providing locally grown produce. The organizers hope that it can help bring together residents from neighborhoods that have significant disparities in wealth, but share a common need for quality food.

The basics:

-- The market will be held every Saturday at 561 NE 79th Street from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., beginning this weekend and ending May 28.

-- It  features, “a variety of locally grown fresh produce, fresh tropical juices prepared on site, artisan breads, local honey, and some prepared foods,” according to a press release.

-- The market has been organized by the commercial real estate firm Terranova, which manages the plaza and is a minority owner, and Urban Oasis Project, a local, volunteer driven nonprofit dedicated to urban farming.

A Social Mission

Urban Oasis Project founder Melissa Contreras said Terranova asked her organization to produce the market because they wanted it to appeal to both low and high income residents that live in the neighborhoods around the plaza. Urban Oasis provides all local produce (mostly grown in Miami-Dade), has experience running farmer’s markets, and accepts up to $10 in SNAP program (food stamps) benefits per person.

The goal, she said, is to create a farmer’s market with great produce where residents of all incomes levels will shop side by side.

“Farmers markets are a great equalizer,” she said in a phone interview. “Everyone eats and everyone deserves access to fresh healthy, local, and in many cases organic food like we have at our farmers market”

Contreras recognizes that there is a general perception that organic food is for the nouveau riche, but she sees it differently.

“Not only does everyone deserve access to it but people of less means appreciate it when they see top quality organic produce from local farms,” she said. “It's a real movement and we're happy to bring that to parts of Miami which are under served”

A Plan to Grow

This Saturday will be the market’s soft launch. Contreras expects it to grow in the months ahead.

“It takes time for any farmers market to become established enough so vendors want to participate, they want to wait and see how it goes,” she said. “By March we're hoping it will be twice what it is this upcoming Saturday. It's just going to continue to grow from there.”