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Karin Fields pauses while weaving among the aisles of the Yellow Green Farmers Market, where she's been a vendor for two years. She gestures to two clear, cylindrical dispensers filled with deep-orange and pink liquids on a high countertop.
"That's the juice place," she says, holding up and shaking a milky concoction of hand-pressed coconut and ginger. She adds with a conspiratorial nod, "They don't have the ginger up top; you have to ask for it."
As Thanksgiving approaches, you want to know: Where can I get fresh herbs? What's in season? How can I support my local farmer instead of the megasuperchainmarket? Where can I pick up a free-range turkey, organic celery, and Florida-made pumpkin beer?
Offerings at most farmers' markets and green markets in Broward and Palm Beach counties are mixed. For every farmer/vendor selling fresh greens with local soil still clinging to the roots, you'll find half a dozen entrepreneurs hawking genetically modified produce from huge industrial farms in California or Brazil.
Fields, founder of a company called Edible Gardening, knows the ins and outs of the local food scene and says there's one secret to getting the best goods: Talk to people.
Mark Menagh, general manager for Yellow Green Farmers Market, which opened in October 2010 and is owned by the Lalo family (which also runs Invicta Watch Group), agrees. "Absolutely, get to know the market and your vendor," he says.
Vendors are usually eager to show off locally grown goods, front and center, Menagh says, but also, "look at the label. If it's imported, it's required to have a label."
It also helps to know your seasons. Florida's growing season is opposite that of up north. As farms in cold climates shut down for the winter, ours are just starting to reap their harvests. As we enter the high growing season, you'll see more and more delicious local food for sale.
Greens burn up in the South Florida summer sun and are just now starting to come in, as are, to a lesser extent, beets. Fields said now is the time to keep an eye out for early fall favorites like sweet potatoes and Seminole pumpkins. Strawberries hit in December. Vendors will tell you what's in season throughout the year.
There are seven Palm Beach County farmers' markets registered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. There are five in Broward. In addition, there's a smattering of farm specialty shops, like the legendary Boys Farmers Market in Delray Beach and Bedner's Farm Fresh Market in Boynton Beach. Here's our take on a few of them:
Yellow Green Farmers Market, 1940 N. 30th Road, Hollywood. Open year-round, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Call 954-513-3990, or visit ygfarmersmarket.com.
The massive, 100,000-square-foot structure can house more than 300 booths, though on a recent weekend morning, roughly one-fifth of those spots remained empty.
Vendor Karin Fields, who also books two music acts each week for the market, said the social aspect is a big part of the Yellow Green experience. "What makes it so special is the happy, positive atmosphere that prevails amongst the vendors — that carries over to our customers," Fields said.
Foodies will have to bypass crafters and vendors selling T-shirts and soy candles but will be rewarded by finding niche products like seasoned olives and dried fruits (pink grapefruit is especially tasty), plus live crabs, Florida honey, fruit pies, seasoned and grilled corn on the cob, and French baguettes. A few vendors sell fresh produce and potted herbs.
The Chill Bar was recently added to the west end of the building and is worth a stop for sustainable sushi and to drink a local brew. Chill Bar chef Elizabeth Becker says, "We only serve Florida beer here."
Marando Farms, 1401 SW First Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Open year-round, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday. Call 954-294-2331, or visit marandofarms.com.
"Are you sure there's a farmers' market back here?" a companion asked during a recent Saturday afternoon as we snaked past warehouses in an industrial stretch of Fort Lauderdale.
Sure enough, we found an oasis of fresh — as in, still in the earth — crops at this nursery/farm/market. There are live pigs, ducks, goats, chickens, and rabbits on-site, so bring Junior when you want to teach him about where his food comes from. He can meet rescued chickens and eat their freshly laid eggs (so fresh, the yolks are orange). Free-range turkeys for Thanksgiving are also for sale here; at presstime, there were a few left.
A lush hydroponics section allows you to clip and bag your own herbs and lettuces, while microgreens and sprouted veggies pack a nutritional wallop. Chelsea and Fred Marando opened this place in 2009 to foster the city's local food movement, so you'll find a good selection of regional produce, some of it grown on premises or at nearby farms.
Inside the market, look for porn-worthy Amish-style apple pie, Florida-produced meats, and other specialty foods. One to seek out: Miami-based Laurie's Pantry gourmet granola. At $9.99 for a 16-ounce Ball jar full of pumpkin spice granola, it's a splurge but well worth it.