There’s a certain formula to farmers' markets: rows of polyester tents, each with their own colorful displays of products to peruse and sample. These publicity hot spots unite all sorts of local companies, from big-name brands to mom-and-pop shops. With such a wide variety of options, knowing how to navigate the scene can be tricky, which is why guests often gravitate to the kiosks of their favorite brands.
But at the Wynwood Farmers' Market, held Saturdays at LAB Miami, it was the small businesses — many born only months ago — that outshined more established vendors such as Coyo Taco and Zak the Baker.
One such business was Counter Culture. Granted, it could have been the three large kegs that sparked visitors' interest, but nevertheless, crowds flocked to the booth to try the fermented tea known as kombucha.
This unusual beverage originated in Asia more than 2,000 years ago, and today Counter Culture is infusing the slightly tangy, naturally carbonated drink with various flavors, from tropical fruits to beets, ginger, turmeric, and carrot. Think of it as sparkling tea and light beer’s fruitier lovechild. Plus, kombucha contains probiotics as well as a number of vitamins and detoxing acids.
The family-owned company is run by Buster Brown and Natalie Bixby, but Brown credits his mother Nancy with the concept. When she discovered kombucha's benefits and shared them with her health-conscious son, their joint belief in the product turned into a business.
“I got into drinking it because at night I wouldn’t want to eat something that’s not good for me or fattening, so I'll have a bottle of kombucha,” Nancy says. “Often when we crave something, we’re grabbing the wrong foods.”
Counter Culture products are made with completely local and seasonal ingredients and are sold in various health-food stores and farmers' markets across South Florida.
Just a few steps from Counter Culture was another family-owned vendor, where Kat Villarreal handed out samples of her mother’s treasured recipes. As many confection companies do, Baked by Rosie began almost by accident, out of pure demand for the product. Villarreal says that baking is considered a family tradition, so the transition from hobby to business was a natural one.
“Our family has a lot of good recipes, so [my mom] figured, why not sell it?”
Though the selection of sweets may sound fairly traditional, they all transcend the classic versions. The cheesecake is more complex and decadent than light and creamy, and every pastry is packed with a depth of flavor you won't find in most baked goods. Baked by Rosie also sells some signature creations, such as the em"pie"nada, a playful take on the Spanish staple.
The Villarreals began baking for online orders about a year ago in their location near Florida International University. Kat says Baked by Rosie's presence at the market should help raise the necessary awareness and funds to open a storefront in that area.
Dominating the market’s savory scene was Holy Pickles, where samples of briny bites vanished from trays in seconds.
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Founders Daniel and Coco started the business only five months ago after learning that the American diet lacks the crucial category of fermented foods. It’s a health benefit that, according to Daniel, goes largely untapped in this country. "Throughout the day, you’re going to be feeling a lot better,” he says. “It’s like taking probiotics but eating it in a delicious way.”
On Saturday, Holy Pickles showcased a selection of vegetables, from Brussels sprouts to beets, pickled by either raw fermentation or apple cider vinegar. The duo completely sold out in just two hours and hopes that success will continue when their website launches in the next few months. While the online store is still in the works, those seeking a Holy Pickles fix can contact the company through its Facebook page to request an order — because, honestly, besides hipster foodies, who has the patience for fermentation?
Events like the Wynwood Farmers' Market give startup owners the opportunity to come face-to-face with potential customers in order to introduce their concepts and the fascinating stories behind them. Plus, bringing these businesses together in one place lets locals easily sample a variety of products and support the community in a delicious way.
The market is open from noon to 5 p.m. and will return at the same time and location February 20.