The Upper Eastside Has an Outdoor Farmers' Market Again

Honey MAN.JPG
Marguerite Gil
Fresh organic honey at the Upper Eastside Farmers' Market.
A few years ago, the Market Company organized an outdoor farmers' market on Biscayne Boulevard at NE 65th Street. Located in the NET (Neighborhood Enhancement Team) parking area, adjacent to Legion Park, it quickly expanded and became a Saturday meeting place for hundreds of Upper Eastsiders looking for fresh produce, flowers, stone crabs, honey, bread, and a variety of other goodies. Available during only the winter months, it folded a couple of years ago and didn't return, much to the dismay of neighborhood denizens.

About a year later, a very small version of an outdoor market was established in the parking lot on Biscayne at NE 79th Street but wasn't too successful. Vendors were unhappy about the large, busy intersection people had to cross to get to their stands and the windy, noisy conditions created by the heavy flow of traffic. Then Terranova Corporation, which owns the shopping plaza, complained that the outdoor marketplace was competing with the commercial stores in the mall. Vendors held on for as long as they could but were finally asked to leave.

Now there's a new project at Legion Park.

Melissa Contreras, organizer of the latest incarnation of the market and creator of the Urban Oasis Project, says, "The supermarket [on 79th Street] thought we were competing with them and told Terranova to basically get rid of us. District 2 Commissioner Marc Sarnoff was contacted, and he told us that we could move our vendors here [to NE 65th Street and Biscayne] for as long as we wanted, and here we are. All we ever wanted to do was to get fresh food to the neighborhood."

vegetables.jpg
Marguerite Gil
Fresh fruits and vegetables.
So far, there are only a few booths providing sugar-cane drinks by Clive the Jamaican juice man, flowers by Asha Orchids, natural organic honey (the vendor is classical guitarist Paul Martin, who also has CDs of his music for sale), plus a solid assortment of fruits and vegetables and green plants. But Contreras hopes more Upper Eastsiders will begin to patronize the newly formed farmers' market and thus allow for an expansion of goods for sale. Musical background tunes (mostly Bob Marley favorites) are played by reggae musician Akete.

The market is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., but a short hiatus is in the works for the summer. Be green and bring your own grocery bags. Ample free parking is available in Legion Park's lot, east of Biscayne Boulevard. Take NE 64th Terrace, turn left into the park, and you're a minute's stroll from the fresh food. You are what you eat.

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Location Info

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Legion Park

6630 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL

Category: General

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Melissa Contreras
Melissa Contreras

This market is a team effort! I am not "organizer of the latest resurrection of the market." Volunteer Lisa Palley, Market Manager Art Friedrich, Commissioner Sarnoff's staff, and City of Miami staff were all vital to making this market happen.

Yes, I am creator of Urban Oasis Project, but after 6 months of just me reaching out to others, Art Friedrich joined in, and many others, as a volunteer group. We formally organized a non-profit in Feb. 2010, and Art and I like to call ourselves co-founders, as we did the bulk of the work, but so many others contribute to our success, and we welcome more to continue with us as we grow. 

I much prefer the use of "WE" over "I"!

Thanks Marguerite, for your enthusiasm for this market. Art is back from 2 weeks vacation, so please stop by and say hello to him this Saturday!

Melissa Contreras
Melissa Contreras

Also, Terranova invited us to start that first market on Biscayne and 79th, at the 1960s vintage Biscayne Plaza shopping center, and subsidized its creation. It was very successful, and others including Wholesome Wave and the Miami Dade County Health Dept enhanced that market, bringing lots of fresh produce to the neighborhood and giving $10 in Veggie Bucks to match the first $10 spent by SNAP/EBT (food stamp) users (which we still do at the Legion Park location, in partnership with Wholesome Wave).

 At that time, there was no supermarket at Biscayne Plaza. It was officially in a USDA-designated food desert neighborhood, serving not only the Upper East side, but also Little Haiti. The Presidente supermarket had closed, as do so many inner-city markets. When the new Tropical supermarket came in as a tenant to Biscayne Plaza, they perceived competition from the farmers market to be detrimental to their business (wrongly as research has shown again and again). Their contract gave them the option to nix the farmers market, and we had to find a new location.

It was a blessing in disguise, though not without challenges as we have succeeded in getting some of our old regular SNAP (food stamp) customers to the new Legion Park location, while we are still waiting for others. That said, we also have new SNAP customers as we bring fresh, local and organic produce to a new location.

Our mission at Urban Oasis Project is to make more healthy, fresh, local food accessible and available to ALL, regardless of income or other factors. Home food gardens and farmers markets are our focus. We are happy to report that this market serves a very diverse clientele of all income levels and backgrounds, and as a recent grad student researching the market said, "has the best vibe of all the markets I have been to from Miami to Tampa."

Mweisbein
Mweisbein

As an upper east sider, the previous market in the parking lot was a joke. Compared to Pinecrest Gardens market, the new one in legions park is 3 or 4 stands which doesn't lead to much selection or options.

Edel Cruz
Edel Cruz

Mweisbein - look at it as quality over quantity.  Pincrest has tons of vendors, but how actually use local product?  Many of the produce vendors are the ones that buy their product wholesale then just put it under a tent and dupe people into thinking it's local/organic, etc.  I'd take this market with one Urban Oasis stand (that sells as much local product as possible) over a market full of fake farmers.

And sorely missing in this write-up is the Proper Sausages stand.  The sausages are crazy good.  I can't believe whoever wrote this article didn't include it.

Farmer Margie
Farmer Margie

Please don't mislead customers with incorrect information! BeeLand's honey is NOT organicm and never has been.  Terms like 'natural', 'raw', and 'unprocessed' are NOT synonyms for organic.

EatGreen
EatGreen

Between the two markets, was there ever a lapse of a Saturday with no market?   I'm pretty sure they even overlapped for a few weeks.

Melissa
Melissa

The Biscayne and 79th location's last day was Saturday March 17 and Legion Park location  began Saturday March 24. There was no lapse in market.

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