City Cracks Down On Overtown, Liberty City Farmers Markets (Updated)
Roots in the City founder Marvin Dunn and a shopper at the opening of the Roots in the City Farmers Market
If today were a typical Wednesday, the Roots in the City Farmers Market in Overtown would be ready for business by noon. But today there will be a demonstration in place of the market, which was shut down last week by the city of Miami code enforcement office.
"We were doing very well and last Wednesday a City of Miami code enforcement officer came and gave the owner of the land a citation," said Marvin Dunn, the founder of Roots in the City. "[Today] rather than have our produce rot in the field, we're going to give our produce away."
The citation was issued to South Florida Smart Growth Land Trust, the owner of the land on the corner of NW Second Avenue and 10th Street where the market operates, for "illegal sale of fruits and merchandise from open stands and vacant lots" and for "failure to obtain a Class I special permit."
This is not the first market the city has shut down. Last month, it shut down the Liberty City Farmers Market at the Belafonte Tacolcy Center for not having proper permits. The market was forced to relocate a few blocks away to the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, which is on county land.
Farmers markets are facing similar issues than food trucks. Obtaining the permit costs $153.50 per event and organizations can only apply for two a year.
"For an organization that has the funds, that's okay but you can't expect a group of residents who wants to do something for the community to pay $3,000 for six months," said Roger Horne, one of the organizers of the Liberty City Farmers Market. "What if someone wanted to do this for a year? That's prohibitive."
Many community organizers say what it comes down to is that the city doesn't have an adequate permitting system to support farmers' markets, treating them instead as special, one-time events.
"Every city in the U.S. supports farmers markets," said James Jiler of Urban GreenWorks, an organization that works in Liberty City. "Miami is the only city that doesn't support farmers markets and when they allow them they want to charge money for them. They're doing things in a backwards way."
The Roots in the City Farmers Market launched as a pilot market for Wholesome Wave last April with a dedication ceremony attended by Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Commissioner Richard Dunn. Backed by Michael's Genuine Food & Drink, Roots in the City, and the Human Services Coalition it was the first local market to accept food stamps and double their value. It reopened for the season in December and would have run until the end of April.
"I just think this whole thing is just ridiculous," said Margie Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farm, one of the vendors at the Roots in the City market. "The bottom line is that we've hopefully been servicing this food desert area with our fresh fruits and vegetables and now we can't. It's not right."
The peaceful demonstration will take place today at noon at the former market site on the corner of NW Second Avenue and 10th Street in Overtown.
Residents and community organizers turned up to show their support for the market and so did two officials from the mayor's office who said the market had not been shut down.
"The city is not in the business of shutting down," said Alan Morley, an aide to the mayor.
The mayor's public affairs officer, Pat Santangelo, who was also on site, said the city didn't issue a cease and desist but a notice of violation, which is just a "friendly reminder." He added that all the organizers need to do is apply for the proper permits, which he said were a certificate of use permit that costs $250 for the first year but is waived for non-profit organizations and an unlimited Class I permit that costs $73.
"We were told that you can get a special use permit two times a year," said Marvin Dunn. "Now they're saying you can get an unlimited special use permit. When did that happen? We didn't get that message."
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