Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
In February, I had to lay off 33% of my workforce. And, one of them was a good friend and scuba diving buddy. A few days after the lay offs were done and emotions were somewhat in check, she called me to chat. Both agreed that all was uncertain, and she asked me if I had a “plan B”. Then she jokingly said “well, you can always start your farmers market!”. I pondered this for a few days. Although our Doral Farmers Market is not by far my “plan b”, it is “a” plan which is going to help many others carry out their plan A or B.
One day I decided to go to the City of Doral website and click on “Contact us”. It was a stretch, but I wanted to find out if the City had any plans to start a Market. Two days later, I had a reply. I has very impressed with the City’s quick response and their eagerness to speak with me. Right away, I met with the Director of Zoning & Planning who encouraged the idea and welcomed my own crazy ideas. A Farmers Market was part of the City’s Green Master Plan. This was all news to me. This is when I seriously started thinking that with my help, Doral residents could have their own Farmers Market.
Where do I start? Of course, the internet. I did some research on other Farmers Markets and general information on how they work and what to expect. My husband checked out some books out of the library and I read up on marketing to vendors/farmers and to the community. I contacted a few people that were involved in the market and my Organic Buying club coordinator to get some more ideas and contacts.
Then, I started thinking that starting my own Farmers Market was way too much to do while working a demanding full time job and rising twin two year old boys!
One day, my neighbor and friend Mansi came over to borrow a folding table that she needed for her son’s birthday party. This is when I found out that she was unemployed, so I jokingly asked her if she could do the research to come up with a business plan for the Doral Farmers Market. To my surprise, she told me “I would LOVE to get involved, and I now have a lot of free time… “. A great partnership was born.
Mansi is unstoppable. From research on the internet to calling farmers and writing presentations, she’s done it all, and and she’s done it very well. I could not think of a better partner to make the Market happen.
By the beginning of May, we had to come up with some bullet points to present at the First Hearing. And, in her attempt to find more information, Mansi came across this Doral Fresh Market. The market functioned at the Doral Country Club and it went on for a couple of weeks last year. The company behind it was Eco Tem. So, we contacted Carlos Abad, the president, and he was very receptive to working with us. And so we decided to meet up at the Hearing: Carlos with Eco Tem, and Mansi and I as citizens of Doral. The first Hearing went great! It was my first time going to any type of public hearing, and it was a very interesting and education experience. Even with my experience as a Toastmaster, I was very nervous to speak about something very close to my heart but yet, I felt like I knew nothing about. But, it went very smoothly and everyone from Council members to the Mayor to other City Employees welcomed the idea of introducing an ordinance that would allow for a privately ran Farmers Market to operate in Doral.
After the overwhelming success of the First Hearing, we now had a lot of work to do before the Second Hearing. We had to come up with a location, find vendors, and secure some resources to pay for some of the expenses like insurance and marketing costs. The Second Hearing came soon in mid-June and the Ordinance was finalized and approved. Again, we were very impressed with the city’s professionalism and efficiency at handling this request. Council members asked very relevant questions, and they were all very positive about the market. Even Mayor Bermudez admitted that he could loose a few pounds by eating healthier and from locally grown farms.
So, Ordinance in hand, in her free time, Mansi went around Doral taking pictures of the different potential locations. Then, we sent them to Zoning & Planning to get their feedback and eliminate the ones that would not be allowed for one reason or another. We narrowed down our choices, and sent out two proposals. Pastor Carlos Leyrer from Divine Savior Lutheran Chruch responded quickly with very positive feedback and a concrete approval. It seemed too good to be true! We finally had an optimal location to operate the market.
Suddenly, things were falling into place.
By now, we decided that a good time to have the Grand Opening was October 31st. on Halloween. Little did we know that most farms are in the midst of planting during this time of the year. So, we knew from the beginning that getting farmers to commit to bringing their fresh produce from Homestead/Redlands was going to be a challenge.
Mansi contacted every farmer she could find, and eventually, we got a few appointments. I took a vacation day off work, and we made our way South. We discovered a whole new world and way of living. It’s really a beautiful landscape. You almost forget that you are in Florida. The folks we met were so amicable and they showed us around their farms ever so proud. They made us feel right at home. We discovered fruits that I had never heard of before. We also got eaten alive by mosquitoes! We ended up eating longans right out of the trees, and Farmer Rick gave Mansi a huge jackfruit to cook her favorite Indian recipe. Farmer Bob greeted us with red dragon fruit, which was out of this world. Eventually, we got some commitments, and made a few friends.
A few days later, I recognized dragon fruit at my local supermarket. I bought it and when I tried it, I was very disappointed. It did not come close to the flavor of Bob’s. Simply you can’t compare fresh grown dragon fruit to the supermarket equivalent.
July was intense as we continued our search for good vendors who offered products that went along our idea of having local, natural, organic, and “green” products. The more I read up on the topic of going green, healthy eating, and sustainability, the more passionate I become with making our Market happen. I keep telling my husband that it feels like I’m working on one of my business plans that I had to do for my MBA, only this time is for real!
So, when I tell my friends that we are starting a Farmers Market, and they ask me what’s in it for me? I smile and say nothing. Good tasting fresh food. I’ve already received so much from this journey. The experience itself has been so much fun, educational and rewarding. The thrill to know that we can provide fresh local food to our community, is worth every effort. I also think that a Farmers Market is one of the most visible manifestations of a city that wants to be green. It’s the first step towards showing an interest in sustainability and supporting local producers. And, given the current economic situation, it could not come at a better time.
See you all on October 31st.
El proposito del Mercado de frutas y verduras es simplemente traer una opcion de distribucion de alimentos a la cuidad de Doral. Ademas, queremos traer educacion a nuestra cuidad. Educacion sobre el medio ambiente y nuestro impacto como consumidores y habitantes de este planeta tan fragil. A la misma vez, proveemos una oportunidad a vendedores locales para tener un espacio donde vender sus productos a un costo muy bajo.
Los “Farmers Markets” han estado abriendo por todos lados, pero lo que nos identifica del resto es nuestro objetivo de mantener el mercado con productos y vendedores locales y la educar a los que nos visiten en temas del medio ambiente, energia alternativa, y sustenibilidad.
La idea es traer agricultures del area, y no tener que comprar vegetales y frutas de otros estados lo que implica varios dias de refrigeracion y transporte que eleven el impacto en el medio ambiente y reducen los valores nutritivos de estos frutos. Para este proposito, hemos trabajado arduamente y contactando varias haciendas en el area de Homestead y Redlands. Tratamos de darles prioridad a vendedores del Doral. Tambien, como gerents del mercado, limitamos ciertos productos y tenemos el derecho de no permitir la venta de ciertas cosas que vayan en contra del proposito del mercado.
El segundo proposito es de educar a la gente acerca de temas del medio ambiente y sustenibilidad. Tendremos informacion para leer y expertos para explicar ciertos metodos de como, por ejemplo, usar energia solar para reducir o eliminar nuestra dependencia en la electricidad. Tendremos un “carrito” solar que podra proveer elctricidad a telefonos mobiles, computadoras, un horno, y hasta una licuadora!
Ademas, queremos que el mercado no sea solamente un lugar para ir de compras, sino un punto critico para encontrarse con amigos, disfrutar un poco de sol y naturaleza con la familia y pasar un rato agradable, quizas escuchando al trio de musica clasica o disfrutando de un batido o una empanada vegetariana.
Como surgio la idea del mercado?
En febrero, tuve que hechar al 33% de mis empleados. Uno de ellos fue una buena amiga y companera de buceo. Luego de varios dias, y una vez que las emociones se calmaron, me llamo para charlar un rato. Entre una cosa y otra, me pregunto si yo tenia otro plan en caso de que perdiera mi trabajo. Esto me dejo pensando… y ella, en broma me dijo, “bueno, de ultima podes seguir a tu sueno y abrir tu “Farmers Market”. En ese momento me parecio una idea loca que yo, con 36 anios, con una carrera exitosa, hijos mellizos de 2 anos, miembro activa de mi iglesia, con un hobby como buceo al cual hay que dedicarle much tiempo y energia, y con un esposo que no para de planear salidas pudiese pensar que podria tambien dedicarme a coordinar un mercado de frutas y verduras. Pero me quede pensando y la idea no se me iba de la cabeza.
Unos dias despues se me ocurrio visitar el sitio de internet de la Ciudad de Doral. Hice click en “contact us” y mande un mensaje preguntando si habia planes de armar un mercado en la Ciudad. Me sorprendio que en dos dias, el director de Zoning and Planning me contesto y me puso en contacto con las personas relacionadas al tema. Me impresiono mucho la rapidez de la respuesta, y unos dias despues la secretaria de la direccion de Zoning me llamo para arreglar una cita y discutir el tema del “Farmers Market”.
Empece entones a buscar informacion y leer acerca de otros mercados y como se organizaban y como funcionaban. Durante mi reunion, me entere que el “Green Master Plan” de la cuidad de Doral incluye un mercado. Asi que al yo comunicarme interesada en empezar un mercado, cayo como anillo al dedo. Desde este momento me di cuenta de que con mi ayuda, la ciudad de Doral tambien podria llegar a tener su propio mercado.
Y ahora que? Me pregunte. Por donde empiezo? Por supuesto, me tire de cabeza al internet. Mi esposo saco unos libros de la biblioteca sobre mercadeo y temas ambientales relacionados con los Farmers Markets. Contacte a toda persona que me atendio, y a la coordinadora de mi club de vegetales organicos quien me dio algunas ideas y advertencies tambien.
De repente, me di cuenta de que empezar algo tan grande sola no iba a ser facil. Y asi como del cielo, un dia mi amiga y vecina Mansi vino a pedirme prestada una mesa plegable para usar en el cumpleanos de su hijo. Charlando, me entere de que estaba sin trabajo y entonces en broma le mencione la idea del mercado y le pregunte si me queria ayudar, y ella, sin dudar un instante me respondio que le encataria.
Asi nacio esta gran sociedad. Mansi es incesable! Enseguida tomo las riendas y se encargo de todo: desde investigaciones en internet hasta llamar a cientos de haciendas y possibles vendedores, hasta disenar una encuesta para analizar el interes de la comunidad.
Para principios de mayo, teniamos que prepararnos para la primera reunion de los consejales de la Ciudad. Y en el proceso de buscar informacion, Mansi encontro a Doral Fresh Market que funciono en el Doral Country Club el ano pasado. La compania detras de este mercardo era Eco Tem. Entonces llamamos al presidente, Carlos Abad, quien fue muy cordial y demostro interes por trabajar con nosotros para hacer realidad el mercado.
Por fin llego el dia de la reunion donde el publico puede hacer sus comentarios. Yo, como buena Toastmaters habia preparado mi pequena presentacion pero estaba muy nerviosa. Pero realmente todo salio muy bien. Tanto los concejales, como el Mayor, como los empleados de la ciudad mostraron su apoyo.
Luego de esta reunion, teniamos mucho por hacer antes de la Segunda lectura de la ordenanza. Tendriamos que encontrar una sede para el mercado, conseguir vendedores y agricultures dispuestos a participar en el mercado y juntar el dinero que haria falta para cubrir los gastos minimos de seguro, formularios, etc.
Finalmente, a mediados de Junio, la ordenanza paso a ser ley con aprovacion unanime. Los consejales hicieron sus comentarios muy apropiados y hasta nuestro Mayor admitio que podria bajar unos kilitos comiendo frutas y verduras locales!
Entonces, Mansi se dedico unos dias a tomar fotos de lugares que nos parecio serian apropiados para que funcione el mercado. Mandamos unas 10 fotos al departamento de Zoning & Planning para que nos guiaran y nos dijeran cuales no podriamos utilizar. De todas las posibilidades, elejimos dos lugares y mandamos la propuesta. A los pocos dias, el Pastor de la iglesia Divine Savior Lutheran, nos contesto positivamente que querian que el mercado funcionara en su propriedad, especificamente, en el terreno del costado Oeste donde no hay edificacion. Nos parecia mentira que tan pronto conseguimos un lugar optimo para abrir nuestro mercado.
De repente, todo iba cayendo en su lugar.
Decidimos que la gran apertura seria el 31 de octubre para Halloween. Lo que no sabiamos es que en octubre, los agricultures estan en el medio de su ardua tarea de sembrar sus cultivos y no tienen mucho tiempo para traer sus productos al mercado. Entonces, Mansi se dedico exclusivamente a contactar a todo agricultor que pudo encontrar e hizo citas para visitarlos. Finalmente, yo me tome un dia de vacaciones y emprendimos nuestra travesia por Homestead y Redlands. Descubrimos un mundo diferente y una forma de vida muy distinta. Las personas que conocimos nos abrieron sus puertas y sus campos. Descubrimos frutas que nunca habiamos visto. Y fuimos descubiertas por cientos de mosquitos! Pero terminamos comiendo “longans” que arrancamos nosotros mismas de los arboles, y uno de los agricultures, Rick, le dio un “jackfruit” a Mansi para que preparara una comida Indu tipica que le quedo deliciosa. “Farmer Bob” nos recibio con “red dragon fruit” fresca, que fue una de las frutas mas ricas que he probado en mi vida. Dejamos el area de Homestead con la panza llena, y el corazon contento ya que no solamente conseguimos que los granjeros aceptaran nuestra invitacion de participar en el mercado, sino tambien nos hicimos de mas amigos.
Unos dias despues, vi “dragron fruit” en el supermercado. La compre, esperando que fuera como la que probamos con Farmer Bob. Ahi fue cuando me di cuenta la diferencia entre una fruta recien arrancada y otra que ha tenido varios dias de transporte y refrigeracion. El sabor es incomparable.
El mes de Julio y hasta ahora, nos enfocamos en obtener mas vendedores de productos que consideramos son acordes con la idea del mercado: verde, natural, organico y sostentible. Visitamos todos los mercados que podemos para aprender como operan e invitar a vendedores que encontramos interesantes.
Cuando les cuento a mis amigos que estoy coordinando un mercado “Farmers Market”, me preguntan “y que vas a ganar?” Entonces yo me sonrio y les contesto “absolutamente nada”. Solamente comida saludable, fresca y sabrosa. Aprendi tanto solamente de las experiencias vividas durante este viaje que empezo en febrero. Me vasta con saber que gracias a mis esfuerzos, la comunidad del Doral va a tener acceso a frutas, verduras, vegetales y productos naturales. Pienso que el mero hecho de que la ciudad de Doral tenga su propio Farmers Market es una indicacion visible de su compromiso con su ciudadanos de avanzar un paso mas adelante a la meta de ser una ciudad “verde” de verdad.
La aceptacion official de nuestro mercado ante la Ciudad sera el 14 de Octubre durante la reunion a las 1:00pm. Esperemos que todos los lectores puedan asistir y demostrar su interes y apoyo.
I'm excited, anxious, mad, worried, upset, feel betrayed, used, confused, happy, sad, frustrated, out of control... and yet, I know good things are coming our way on Saturday. I don't know how, but deep down I know this "project" will be a success. Not without a lot of very hard work...
Very challenging few days... and lots more challenges to overcome, I'm sure. But, integrity, honesty and positive energy will carry me through.
Monday, October 26, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Everyone enjoyed our 5 minute presentation and they watched it attentively. Once we were done talking about the benefits of eating locally, and defining food as "don't eat anything your great grandmother would not recognize as food" (by Michael Pollan), Matthew gave a 2 minute quick speech on his support of the market. We answered a couple of questions, and then they unanimously voted YES.
Now the wheels will run faster than ever in our efforts to get everyone on board all coordinated and ready for our Grand Opening on Oct. 31st.
Tomorrow, we will attend a Community Health Fair to promote the Market. It's on NW 82 Ave and 36 Street in Doral. It will be an outdoor event from 4 to 8pm. There will be lots of free goodies from the sponsors and lots of healthy information. Stop by and say Hi! We are having great weather now that the rainy season is almost over.
P/S: Paula, I wore my "power" dress! :-)
Monday, October 12, 2009
But, in spite of our jittery voices, radio host, and his producer Andreina made us feel right at home from the get go.
All along, radio listeners were calling and asking when and where the market would open. It was a very nice surprise that the phones kept ringing and Andreina kept giving out information.
It was really a neat experience. Carlos H. asked a few questions regarding how the idea came about. Some radio listeners were asking about solar energy and Carlos A. did a good job explaining the basics of solar panels.
See you all on Halloween day!
Sunday, October 11, 2009
Monday, October 5, 2009
NOTICE OF PUBLIC MEETING
NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that on Wednesday, October 14th, 2009 at 1:00
p.m. the City of Doral City Council will hold a Council Zoning Meeting. The
Meeting will take place at the City of Doral, City Hall Council Chambers
located at 8300 N.W. 53rd Street, Suite 100, Doral, Florida 33166.
The City of Doral complies with the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities
Act. Individuals with disabilities requiring special accommodations or assistance
should call the City of Doral at (305) 593-6725 of such need at least 24 hours (1
days) in advance.
City Clerk, City of Doral
Monday, September 28, 2009
We counted about 120 cars in the parking lot. Not bad for a first day!
Overall they had a good vendor mix. Although, we would have like to see more fruits and vegetables. Natural teas, healing coffees, wonderful pasta, aromatic flavored olive oils, potted plants, hand made ornaments, jams, dips, jewelry, guacamole & salsas filled in the area with each individual's charm. We spent about one hour as the sun was getting strong and the humidity was elevated. Rain was inevitable and by the time we got home, it was indeed pouring.
We met some great people and had a good time in Pembroke Pines. Good luck to you Northern neighbors!
Monday, September 7, 2009
In all honesty, I was disappointed. It was not as good as the shows in the past. I did not see anything that made me go wow. However, I did see at least 5-6 stalls that offered Solar Energy choices to heat up water or for the entire home. Unfortunately, the vendors were not very excited to talk to me. So, I just picked up some brochures to review at home.
Now Daniel from ArteZanos Inc has something to say. And, he actually spoke with me for a few minutes. He specializes in sustainable roofing systems. Check out http://www.artezanos.com/.
I had just read an article regarding rooftop gardens a few days ago. Something that I had not really pondered before. And, here it was, right in front of me... Wild stuff! But, it could really make a difference on your electrical bill and it would forever change the look of the community. I wonder if my HOA would go for this? No more pressure cleaning the roof tiles! :-)
Next year, I'll bring my credit card.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Not knowing what to expect, we showed up a little early and were greeted by some amicable folks. Immediately, they offered to try their rare fruits. Soon, people continued to pour in, and before we knew it, there was a vast display of colors, textures and smells that as I had never seen before. My kids went straight for the fresh strawberries! I ventured to try the guanabana and passion fruit, and was that a delightful shock to my taste buds! My husband loved the mango pie. We saved all the seeds so we can start some plants.
Unfortunately, I had to take my kids to do a diaper change and 2 minutes into it, the meeting got started. Thanks to my husband and his impromptu Toastmasters skills, he was able to make the announcement of our existence as a Farmers Market. By the time I got back, the meeting was well underway. I passed out some flyers and vendor applications, and then enjoyed the presentation by Lynda LaRocca on Brazil’s Pantanal’s and is flora & some fauna.
Lynda projected very interesting and inviting images of the Pantanal. I was impressed with the enormity of the country’s savanna and the beautiful and ever changing display of various plants and flowers. The blue skipper was a rare find, and Lynda captured a beautiful image on her first few days there.
As a child, fruit was always abundant in my house. We always had a basket full of apples, pears, oranges, bananas, plums, and in the summer, it was a treat to have watermelon and melons as well as pineapple and peaches. But, if you really want to challenge your senses, attend the next meeting on September 9th. I look forward to it. This time, my husband will be in charge of potty duty so I can do a short presentation on the Doral Farmers Market! J
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
My parents, Aldo & Maria Elena had lunch with us and then headed home. The heat was almost unbearable. Mansi and my husband were true troopers. Our kids were great too! We were on a quest to meet some farmers and make some friends. And, we certainly did!
After lunch, we headed out to Robert is Here (http://www.robertishere.co
Then we visited Farmer Bob (http://www.localharvest.or
The next stop was at our very own winery http://www.schneblywinery.
We continued our journey to the Fruit & Spice park hoping form some more information. We managed to get a list of the areas fruit growers. And, Mansi will be contacting everyone soon.
It was getting late and the heat was really getting to us. So, we decided to make Whitneys (http://www.redlandriot.com
Thanks to our husbands and kids for putting up with our crazy ideas. Overall, a fun Saturday! More news to come… keep checking this blog and facebook for updates.
It's amazing how it all falls into place. We've got more and more vendors... and variety: Organic produce, conventional produce & fruits, flowers, natural jewelry, natural soaps, hoping for home-made ice cream made with local fruits, rare flowers, and of course, water!
Mansi has been hitting the phones and contacting every farm related person that we can get a hold off...Andrea has been figuring out the permits and licensing requirements. October 31st seems like a long time away, but it really is just around the corner.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
We are looking for farmers to sell their fresh produce at
the new farmers market in the city of Doral.
Please contact Mansi or Andrea to secure your spot
786-845-8271 or 954.558.8975
You may also send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
or join our Doral Farmers Market group on Facebook
- Doral was recently rated #2 city to live well in America (see Forbes Magazine article "America's Top 25 Towns To Live Well")
- There are over 13,000 households in Doral, with a median family income of $80,600.
- If only 1% of the households shop at your produce stand, and they spend an average of $10, you will make $1,300. Not bad for a 1/2 day worth of work!
- 78% of Doral Residents are Hispanic, and they appreciate fresh markets as this was their method of buing produce back home.
- Farmers markets offer a prime location, and costs such as insurance and marketing are shared with others.
- Large profit margins.
- Customer feedback is often immediate, offering the farmers first hand knowledge of what the shopper really wants.
- Minimal start-up costs & immediate access.
- Positive farmer to farmer relationships.
- Publicity for the farm.
- Less food miles saves money & the environment.
- Reduce wastage.
- It's just plain fun to sell at the farmers' market!!