Miami Farmers' Markets: The Fresh, the Local, and the Bargains

Miami Farmers' Markets: The Fresh, the Local, and the Bargains
Zak the Baker at the Pinecrest Gardens Farmers' Market.

At the Coconut Grove Farmers Market, Tracy Fleming reaches for a bucket of melted ice that sits beneath a propped-up cooler. Wearing muddy blue jeans and blond hair pulled back in a loose ponytail, the 52-year-old dumps cold water onto a stretch of marshy grass behind her. It's like a momentary waterfall.

Fleming turns and navigates her way back through rows of California strawberries, organic rutabagas, and prewashed salad greens before setting the bucket on the ground.

"Farmers' markets?" she asks rhetorically. "There aren't any farmers' markets around here, except for this one." Like other producers across Miami, Fleming has a strong opinion about what should or shouldn't constitute such a place. Many people believe they should be producer-only venues.

As the weather cools in Miami-Dade, markets such as the one in the Grove are becoming more widespread. There are 18 of them registered locally with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

What you might not know, however, is that ten belong to a single firm called the Market Company, which was founded in 1995 by Claire Tomlin. The original aim was promotion. "People would call us wanting an event in their community that was going to draw in people," Tomlin recalls in a thick Southern accent.

Soon she started her first farmers' market, a venue on South Beach's Lincoln Road where vendors sold flowers, processed foods, and produce. Gradually, the company began taking over other markets in the area and initiating new ones.

Tomlin's firm now has an office in Miami Beach with teams for marketing and recruiting. They are responsible for farmers' markets across Miami-Dade, including Aventura, South Beach, Brickell, South Miami, and Pinecrest.

Each market functions with different guidelines. "An honest-to-goodness farmers' market is just producers," she explains. "But here in South Florida, you just don't find a lot of that."

What you do find is a variety of vendors selling everything from local produce to handmade bread to imported products. What follows are our conclusions about a few of them.

Pinecrest Gardens Farmers' Market, 11000 Red Rd., Pinecrest. Open year-round, Sundays 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

This market inside the lush Pinecrest Gardens is home to as many as 65 vendors during the high season, which begins December 1 and ends in mid-May. One of them is Copperpots, a tiny company owned by Tom Wilfong and his girlfriend, Vanessa Safie. Together, they produce jams and marmalades with flavors including rum raisin, apple butter, jalapeño, and pineapple five-spice. The pair also prepares local strawberry and mango jams when the fruits are in season.

Copperpots products are always made in small batches with all-natural ingredients. An eight-ounce jar goes for $7, and a four-ouncer costs $4. By 2 p.m. the day we visited, the couple had already sold out of their most coveted flavors: apple butter and pineapple.

Another vendor is Zak the Baker, a bread-maker who specializes in handmade sourdough. Zak Stern, who founded the bakery, arrives at the market at 9:30 a.m. His breads typically sell out within a few minutes, and by 10 a.m. he has already cleared his stand and left.

Shoppers should arrive as early as possible. The first hour is the best time to grab locally produced foods.

Later in the day, the market is studded with tents peddling a variety of items, such as imported Tuscan olive oil and commercial Colombian Oma brand coffee. "There are many vendors at Pinecrest making so many different things," Wilfong says. "It's important to find the people who are there because they are passionate about what they do, not the ones that are there just for the buck."

The Market Company's mission is to attract people from the surrounding community. So it offers variety: olive oil, coffee, barbecue, smoothies, ice cream, jams, bread, produce, and many other items. It's a model that the company has already perfected. It's also another reason why you have to show up early. By the afternoon, the parking lot is typically full.

Sunset Marketplace, 5701 Sunset Dr., South Miami. Open year-round, Saturdays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

This market is located in the middle of a walkway at the Shops at Sunset Place. Like Pinecrest, it is operated by the Market Company. This location is much smaller, with only about ten tents.

Near the Atelier Monnier cart that sells macarons, Laura's Fresh Fruit and Vegetables offers okra, nopales, eggplant, squash, and other items. Run by Laura Ramirez and her extended family, the stand offers a mix of Florida and out-of-state produce.

The family operates a modest five-acre farm in Homestead. At the tent, Ramirez sells avocados from her back yard for $2, medium papayas for $3, and two-pound baskets of Italian eggplant for $4. More local produce will arrive once the high growing season begins later this month, she says.

A nearby stand offers baked goods, including red velvet whoopie pies. Others sell dried fruits, candles, and soaps.

At Sunset Place, there's a bit of everything. But overall, the market is small in scope and, therefore, small in its lure.

Vegetable Market at Redland Market Village: Bargain Town, 24420 S. Dixie Hwy., Homestead. Open year-round, Wednesdays through Sundays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

1
 
2
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
4 comments
www.miamicurated.com
www.miamicurated.com

A tip...if you miss out on Zak's bread at the market as I did, you can buy it at Perricone's and it's seldom sold out. Also, there's a new purveyor that sells Guava Bars that are delicious, especially the cinnamon walnut (they give samples).

jrp02771
jrp02771

Cutler Bay Farmers market is cheap organic and with some food trucks.

 

oldculter and 87th ave.  sat-sun

 
Loading...