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Front Page » Communities » Farmers markets get grounds to grow

Farmers markets get grounds to grow

Written by on July 2, 2014

From now on farmers markets may set up shop in unincorporated areas of Miami-Dade County as long as organizers follow certain rules.

Until now, farmers markets could set up shop in unincorporated Miami-Dade but only in agricultural areas and urban centers, said Miami-Dade Agriculture Manager Charles LaPradd.

Agricultural areas are located outside the Urban Development Boundary, which sets a boundary between development to the east and agricultural areas as well as the Everglades to the west and south. Urban centers, Mr. LaPradd said, are areas, such as the region around Dadeland Mall that allow for mixed-use development and are close to transit.

The county commission approved an ordinance Tuesday that says farmers markets may also set up shop at churches, schools, museums, hospitals, parks and government facilities, among other places in Miami-Dade.

“This now solidifies everything,” Mr. LaPradd told Miami Today. “We get a lot of calls from folks wanting to do this in schools and churches, and this permits this within certain guidelines. It’s not intended to be a flea market.”

To regulate the farmers markets setting up shop, the ordinance establishes a slew of logistics and rules. Among them: More than half the products sold at the markets are to be fruits, vegetables and plants; and the majority of the farm products must have been grown in Miami-Dade County.

In addition, vendors may not cook food on-site but may prepare smoothies, juices and coffee on site.

To obtain a certificate of use, the organizer of the farmers market needs a letter showing that the property owner allows for the market to be held on the site, verification that most of the products are locally grown and a letter outlining the event’s logistics such as hours of operation.

Commissioner Lynda Bell, who represents much of South Miami-Dade, sponsored the ordinance. South Miami-Dade is home to most of the county’s farmers, many of whom sell their produce at farmers markets.

In recent years, farmers markets have been thriving in South Florida, but so far in Miami-Dade vendors have mainly set up shop in municipalities instead of in unincorporated county areas.

“Most of the farmers markets that have been taking place in Coral Gables, Lincoln Road, Pinecrest are dealing with municipal government and their regulations,” Mr. LaPradd said.

While the ordinance sailed past a county committee as well as the full county commission Tuesday, concerns about the legislation’s language have been raised.

“I am all for having the majority of products of sale grown in Miami-Dade County,” Margaret Pikarsky, owner of Redland-based Bee Heaven Farm, told a county committee in June. “However, I am not sure how you can verify this. When a market operator applies for a CU [certificate of use], they don’t necessarily know all the vendors.”

Mr. LaPradd, the county’s agriculture manager, later told Miami Today: “We will do the best we can. The market permit holder would have to provide some documentation, and we hope people will also operate in the spirit that’s intended.”