sam-vanleer_web.jpgSpecial to the South Florida Times

Farmers and earth-friendly organizations partnered with Belafonte TACOLCY Center on Nov. 20 for the organization’s fourth annual Planting the Seeds, Growing the Future “green” market.

Visitors were provided edible seedlings, avocado and mango trees and sample organic foods and attended a mini farmer’s market.

The idea for the event came from a TACOLCY Center study funded by The Health Foundation of South Florida whose mission is to improve the health status of residents in Monroe, Miami-Dade and Broward counties, according to Alison Austin, the center’s president and CEO.

“The assessment revealed the absence of easy access to fresh produce, yet high access to fast food. It is a part of an initiative to get people to eat healthier,” said Austin. “When it comes to our health, we need to understand just what we have to do and how to do it.”

The event also served as an introduction of the TACOLCY Center Farmer’s Market, Austin said. The outdoor market, scheduled to run from noon to 6 p.m. Thursdays December through April.

The event was funded by the Lifeline Consortium, a partnership made possible by the Child Murder and Youth Violence Prevention Initiative grant awarded to TACOLCY by The Children’s Trust, according to Isheka N. Harrison, TACOLCY’s communications and outreach manager.

The Initiative supports neighborhood-based collaboration to address civic and community outreach, engagement and mobilization, according to the Children’s Trust Web site.

Organizations partnering with TACOLCY included Urban Oasis Project, Youth Leading Environmental Activism through Democracy (L.E.A.D.) and Urban Paradise Guild.

Corene Walden, 88, who attended the exposition, said she plants most of her food in her back yard. “I eat as many fresh vegetables as I can, especially collard greens and sweet potatoes,” the Liberty City resident said. “I grew up on a farm and this is the only way we ate. I never stopped.”

Walden, who got about a dozen seedlings and an avocado tree, said that she would add them to her garden.

Melissa Contreras, founder of Urban Oasis, was not surprised at Walden’s comments.

“We find that the older generation has a better idea of what eating natural means. So we work more with the younger people to educate and get them on board,” she said.

Liberty City resident Susan Cooper said that she was happy to see a farmer’s market coming to her neighborhood.

“At one time, I had my own garden because I have always preferred to eat natural, to grow my own,” she said.
Cooper said produce and other foods where she shops are “not fresh and over-processed.”
“I believe it’s harmful to our bodies. The market can make a huge difference for the community and our health,” she said.

Cynthia Roby may be contacted at

Photo by Khary Bruyning/for South Florida Times. Getting Started: Sam Vanleer of Urban Paradise Guild gives out small seedlings from the guild’s nursery during Tacolcy’s ‘green’ event on Nov. 20.