Southwest Community Farmers’ Market is No Longer Homeless [Updated]

Zucchini, eggplant and cranberry beans at Southwest Community Farmers' Market

Update as of 3/15/13 at 6:30 p.m.: This article originally posted with the headline: “Southwest Community Farmers’ Market is Now Homeless.” However, Art Friedrich of Urban Oasis Project just emailed this update: 

“Great news! Our homeless market has found its new home. Next week we will open up at Tropical Park, from 9 to 2 p.m. 10 a.m.-4 p.m., probably near the Bird Rd. Entrance! We will finalize all details next week, but the County Parks Department has worked with Urban Oasis Project (a vendor at the SW Community Farmers Market) before and is welcoming us to relocate there. We will still be open tomorrow at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami, and some vendors will be there offering their products for free (donations accepted) and raising funds to cover the costs of the citations issued. Please join us tomorrow to show support and get the latest info.

Art Friedrich
South Florida Food Policy Council, Facilitator
Urban Oasis Project, Vice-President”

The Southwest Community Farmers’ Market started in Dec. 2012 at a Unitarian Universalist Church off Sunset Dr. (SW 72nd St.) and the Palmetto. For those who enjoyed visiting the Upper Eastside Market, anchored by the big Urban Oasis tent of local produce, but who lived further south, the Southwest market provided an opportunity to get that same produce, as well as prepared foods from Copperpot’s, Freakin’ Flamingo, Rok Kat, Crackerman and other vendors. The market also accepted EBT/SNAP benefits.

The church is hidden away on a side street. The market is ensconced even further back in the church. On one of the first Saturdays the market was open, visitors walked about, a little confused, until finally encountering the market in a welcoming grassy area at the back. A few of us mentioned to Art Friedrich, from the Urban Oasis group that helped create the market, and Annick Sternberg, the market coordinator, that signs guiding people to the market would be helpful.

Squash blossoms at Southwest Community Farmer’s Market

They did put up signs in the following weeks to help newcomers find the market, but this past week the Southwest Community Farmers’ Market was fined by a Miami-Dade County inspector for signage on a right of way (the market had posted signs on nearby roads). In addition, they were also fined for failing to have a certificate of use. The fines total about $800.

According to Art Friedrich, the process for creating the Legion Park Upper Eastside Farmers’ Market was clearer; it’s in the City of Miami which now has a farmers market ordinance establishing somewhat more clearly the procedures and definitions for a farmers’ market (although markets in the city have faced their own snafus in the past)

Canistels at Southwest Community Farmers' Market

Friedrich says that current Miami-Dade ordinances are outdated, requiring that “farm stands” operate in agriculturally-zoned rural areas or commercially zoned areas.  He reports that Miami-Dade agricultural manager Charles LaPradd may be working on some way to make the process more streamlined for Miami-Dade farmers’ markets.

In the meantime, the Southwest Community Farmers’ Market is homeless. To keep operating at the church, the market would need to apply for a zoning variance (which Friedrich learned is at least $3000) and then a separate certificate of use. Friedrich reports that they are now seeking other venues, but he says the group has some good leads.

Friedrich and others from the market will be at the Unitarian Universalist Church (7701 SW 76 Ave.) at their usual time tomorrow (the market usually runs Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.). Market organizers will set up an information table to talk with community members, make their petition available, accept any voluntary donations and give away free produce.

You can also find fresh produce from the Southwest Community Farmers Market Urban Oasis Project next Saturday, Mar. 23 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Live Well and Play Day event at Gibson Bethel Community Center in South Miami (5800 SW 66 St.) (see a PDF of the 2013 Live Well Flyer).

This was an event that was set up in advance of the compliance problems, but Friedrich is looking forward to creating another opportunity to engage the community on the Southwest Community Farmers’ Market.

Several markets in South Florida have had their growing pains, and as Paula Niño reported in her 2011 Mango & Lime article, “head-spinning” bureaucratic requirements and permitting costs seem to vary depending on the area and its ordinances (City of Miami, other city areas like Pinecrest, Miami-Dade, etc.). Sometimes markets require (and receive) a special ordinance or exemption from the city where they’re held.

The procedural Olympics aren’t always easy, but community support has seemed to help markets facing obstacles. For those who enjoy the Southwest Community Farmers’ Market, it would seem that now is the time to make that known.


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