Rubbish to Riches: The Little Haiti Community Garden

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Our neighborhood is getting richer. In the glitzy stores and along 40th street, and eighteen blocks north of them on second avenue where arugula gleams brighter than the emeralds at Cartier and papaya trees stand taller than the Louis Vuitton RETNA mural. In what once was an abandoned lot, Gary Feinberg and Tamara Hendershot have created a flourishing model of urban renewal.

This is the Little Haiti Community Garden‘s third growing season, and the multi-purposed garden with student and volunteer educational opportunities, is producing okra, collards, melons, Asian and black eggplant, Malabar spinach, arugula, and green and purple basil almost year round, as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables. Local restaurants including MGFD, Harry’s Pizzeria, Yardbird, Copper Box and Essensia all take advantage of the hand-harvested leafy greens. And the quality goes beyond the organic seeds -the soil is made from the property’s own compost and castings. Care is provided by farm manager Prevner Julien.

Prevner is from Haiti.  Through help from Project Medishare and The Miami Dolphins Foundation, he came to Miami in 2011 after the earthquake changed everything about his Port au Prince home. He had a lifetime of expertise, but hadn’t ever ran a garden the size of their 1/3 acre lot. “Inside every Haitian is a farmer,” he told Greg, and the proof is in the planting. He doesn’t use conventional rows to plant his seeds, but a haphazard strategy that he says keeps bugs and viruses at bay. It is evidiently working, along with all the TLC.

The produce can be found for sale at the Upper East Side market on Saturday mornings (6599 Biscayne Blvd.) as well as at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden on Wednesday afternoons. They also have a ‘You Pick’ policy at the farm, and plots available if you’d like to start your own garden.  All proceeds go back into the farm, back into the community.

The color of the soil, the taste of the mustard greens (should be called wasabi greens they are so sharp and delicious), the smiles of neighbors working in their garden plots; I felt richer just for having visited. Mother Theresa said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” I’d like to thank Gary and Tamara for their work, which ripples through our community. It is nice to see real riches taking root.

I’d also like to thank Harry’s kitchen manager Steve Martin for making the time for a neighborhood field trip, and to digital designer Ilysa Corns and her little mister Walker for making it so much fun.

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