MIAMI (CBS4) – A peaceful demonstration was held this afternoon at the site of the former Roots in the City Farmers Market in Overtown after the market was shut down last week by Miami’s code enforcement office.
The Roots in the City Farmers Market debuted to national attention in April 2010 as the only wholly local farmer-operated market in Miami and the first urban farmers market in Florida.
Last week however, code enforcement cited the owner of the land, South Florida Smart Growth Land Trust, for “illegal sale of fruits and merchandise from open stands and vacant lots” and for “failure to obtain a Class I special permit.”
The market is located at the corner of NW 2nd Avenue and 10th Street.
“I called the head of Code Enforcement, they never called me back,” said Roots in the City founder Marvin Dunn. “I called the city manager about this last week, he never called me back. I didn’t pick this fight. If I had gotten answers from the city, we wouldn’t be having this demonstration out here.”
The Roots in the City Farmers Market was unique because it offered lower-income consumers the opportunity to eat healthy by using their food stamps to make subsidized purchases. For every $1 in food stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollars, customers received $2 worth of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The city also shut down the Liberty City Farmers Market at the Belafonte Tacolcy Center last month for not having proper permits. The market was forced to relocate a few blocks away to the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, which is on county land.
The city says the farmers market needs to obtain a special permit which costs $153.50 per event and organizations can only apply for two a year.
Community supporters say the city doesn’t have an adequate permitting system to support farmers’ markets, treating them instead as special, one-time events and that’s simply too costly.
But, city officials say the policy is in place and everyone is required to adhere to it.
“To feel as though you are getting picked on to have to comply with what every body else has to do may be unfair to the city,” said City of Miami spokesperson Pat Santangelo.
When The Roots in the City Farmers Market originally opened, it was part of a national movement called “Nourishing Neighborhoods.” It was a pilot market for the non-profit organization, Wholesome Wave Foundation, which has sponsored 160 markets like the one in Overtown in 20 states. It was backed by Miami Dade County’s Human Services Coalition, Roots in the City, and Chef Michael Schwartz of Michaels Genuine Food & Drink.
It reopened for the season in December and would have run until the end of April.
Source: The Miami New-Times contributed to this report.