The Liberty City Farmers Market brings fresh, organic and bargain-priced fruits and vegetables to a part of Miami barely served by supermarkets.
Open since December, the market was formerly based at the Belafonte TACOLCY Center but recently moved to the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, where it is open from noon to 5 p.m. on Thursdays.
Recent offerings included the freshest of carrots, lettuce and strawberries, all purchased from local farmers by the Urban Oasis Project, the non-profit organization that started the market.
“I think this is all wonderful. It’s unique because there aren’t many organic spots here,” said Linda Robinson, 60, who grew up in Liberty City and still lives in the community. “Everything looks beautiful and fresh and it’s not expensive.”
That's exactly what Urban Oasis co-founder Art Friedrich was hoping to hear.
“We wanted to put together a farmers market in Liberty City with the idea of making local fresh food available and affordable,” said Friedrich. “I had been to Miami and was shocked to find so little fresh local food.”
The market's move from TACOLCY to the cultural center makes it more visible to passers-by on busy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
“This is the fourth week the market has been at this location, with traffic anywhere from 100 to 200 people stopping by,” said Ken Knight, a community activist helping out at the market. “We’re on a main corner in the inner city and we want people in Liberty City to see that they can find healthy and good food here.”
But market organizers want to do more than sell fresh produce in the community.
“I wanted to teach people how to plant their own gardens in their backyards,” said Melissa Contreras, who founded Urban Oasis with Friedrich. “So far, we have helped plant 30 gardens around Liberty City over the past year. I encourage anyone that wants our help to come visit us at the market and let us set it up. It’s absolutely free.”
Robinson, whose sister told her about the market, decided to check it out. She purchased a no-sugar, all-natural, pineapple banana smoothie.
“It’s 16 ounces and only $4,” she said.
Apart from the smoothie, nothing in the market costs more than $3.50 a pound except a 1.5-gallon can of coconut oil, priced at $65.
The market accepts most forms of payment, including food stamps, which are matched one dollar for every two dollars up to $10 per market day, under a program funded by the Health Foundation of South Florida and Whole Foods Market in Pinecrest.
That means a person paying with $10 in food stamps can buy $20 worth of produce.
Organizers say the market's earnings stay in Liberty City.
“Whatever profit we make goes right back to the community,” Friedrich said. “We spend it on equipment we need to build the gardens or on other projects we take on in Liberty City.”
Daysi Calavia-Lopez may be contacted at email@example.com.