Best Farmers' Market in Broward County 2012 | Marando Farms | Shopping & Services | South Florida

Chelsea and Fred Marando opened their place in 2009 as a hub for local, organic produce. In a few short years, they've grown so much that the farm is supplying restaurants in addition to families. Grab a bag and a pair of scissors at the entrance so you can clip your own herbs and lettuces. Browse the baskets of bright fruits and veggies. Pop inside the general store for beautiful pumpernickel breads, marbled rye, and olive loaves, plus raw milk, homemade preserves, locally roasted coffee, and a vast selection of organic pet food. Want more? Buy into the community-supported agriculture program and get a weekly supply of star fruit, oranges, tomatoes, and such. Or go a step further and get your hands dirty by participating in the community garden on-site. Bring the kids — pigs, chickens, billy goats, and geese (all once abandoned and adopted by the farm) make a miniature petting zoo of sorts.

It's 6 p.m. on a Monday at Publix. Armed with shopping carts, 20- and 30-something men dressed in their work attire stroll through the various aisles. You can learn a lot about a man from his grocery cart. It's sort of like the real-life version of a dating website profile. The grocery-store choices reveal if he's healthy, if he can cook, and if he's got a job. The grocery store also provides for an assortment of simple conversation starters: Ask a guy to reach for something on a high shelf, or offer advice on something that he's considering dropping in his cart. Meeting over Coco Puffs is infinitely better than meeting some drunken fool who's pounding cheap beer at a bar downtown.

Most white-collar criminals 'round these parts are in it for the money — in the case of former Lauderdale Lakes Finance Director Larry Tibbs, however, the achievement isn't in how much he stole but how much he invented. To hide just how bad the city was at the whole "having money" thing, Tibbs used every trick in the book and several that weren't: He said the city was going to make money from sources that didn't exist, made up numbers for sources that did exist, and pilfered cash from sources that belonged to other people, according to an investigation by the Broward Office of the Inspector General. An all-star effort; any town looking to lie to taxpayers and bounce checks to the sheriff's office would be lucky to have him.

When he's not rapping onstage — or on top of a bar — Jacques Bruna, AKA Bleubird, can be found distributing ice pops and hosting local Record Store Day events, saving kittens from trees, and organizing area happenings with the creative collective Black Locust Society. Impossible to miss, the wildly charismatic Bruna is usually seen driving around in his multicolored ice-cream-truck/music-playing RV, the Freeebird. Regardless of the rhyme or reasons, this dude certainly makes Fort Lauderdale a bit more colorful.

Any disgruntled citizen can hurl insults during a school board meeting or launch a NIMBY crusade. Rita Solnet is the rare activist with powerful allies inside and outside government. Her diligently researched arguments prompt policy changes with far-reaching implications throughout the state. The Boca Raton mom helped found the national, nonpartisan group Parents Across America, which rails against privatization and high-stakes testing in schools. This year, she helped prevent a for-profit company with a dismal track record, Mavericks in Education, from opening three new charter schools in Palm Beach County. Then she took the fight to Tallahassee, successfully protesting a "parent empowerment" bill that would have allowed public schools to be converted to charters. Solnet saw the measure as an attempt to privatize schools and drive a wedge between parents and school administrators. "This bill no more empowers me than it does the gecko on my patio from taking over my home," Solnet wrote in a letter protesting the bill. Try arguing with that.

When Bill Di Scipio heard that officials were trying to land a contract for an immigration detention center in the quiet, low-tax town of Southwest Ranches, he went to a few meetings to investigate. What he thought he saw was a handful of bumbling and conspiratorial city officials bent on sealing a deal behind the backs of residents. The proposal — still in the works — calls for a contract between the town and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, with a majority of the proceeds going to Corrections Corporation of America, which wants to build the 1,500-bed jail. Di Scipio launched a torrent of public-records requests for everything from emails to receipts, focusing on the shadowy work of Town Attorney Keith Poliakoff, who told council members, "The less we say, the better off we will be." When his requests went unanswered, Di Scipio started writing new ones, in broken English under the nom de plume of Frank Nurt. His name now elicits an audible groan from the city clerk in charge of public records, and Poliakoff smacked down a lawsuit from Di Scipio and his rookie lawyer over the $1.25 that he was incorrectly charged for copies of records. Di Scipio's tactics may be unorthodox, but his work has resulted in important information seeing the light of day, and his activist group persuaded Pembroke Pines to oppose the facility, opening that city to a big lawsuit from CCA.

When an ambitious state attorney resigns his post as the top prosecutor in Palm Beach County to become a lawyer for a fossil fuel company, eyebrows will inevitably rise. But it was an especially strange move for Michael McAuliffe, because the Democratic litigator left to work for Bill Koch, one of Mitt Romney's top fundraisers and brother of the famed Tea Party backers Charles and David Koch. What could Palm Beach billionaire Koch want from McAuliffe? Koch is known to be litigious, having waged famous court battles against a wine broker and a former mistress. In the '80s, he sued his brothers, alleging corporate mismanagement of the family's oil company, Koch Industries. Last year, Bill Koch's company, Oxbow Corp., sued Warren Buffett's railroad companies, alleging that Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad companies were conspiring to drive up costs for shipping coal. None of this explains why McAuliffe decided to join his legal team. It's the kind of political mystery that will keep tongues wagging for months.

Bob Norman is adept at pissing people off. In February, the Broward Sheriff's Office labeled Norman as "cocky" in an incident report suggesting that the Channel 10 reporter was creeping around and filming illegally at the Pine Hollow Equestrian Center. A month later, Norman found himself in a pushing match with a mustached foreman at the Sun Recycling plant in Pompano Beach. In that instance, BSO actually had to come out to the scene to get Norman's microphone back from the foreman, who ran back onto private property when he seized the stick. This bulldog mentality and a ridiculous level of insider knowledge combine to make Norman tops when it comes to South Florida television reporters. Yes, Norman is a former New Times columnist. And no, we're not above playing favorites, but this award comes courtesy of Norman's old-school, shoe-leather-burning reporting.

Ryan Phillips isn't just some cloud-talking mimbo telling you whether it's going to be hot or hotter. The 34-year-old NBC weatherman has been geeking out on cold fronts and low-pressure systems since he was a kid in rural Ohio. "While I was in high school, I actually went and interviewed for a meteorology program at Ohio University," he says with a healthy hint of self-deprecation. He ended up studying tropical weather — not a bad skill set for this market — then bounced from Nebraska to Naples before landing in Miami in 2005. Soon after his arrival, Hurricane Wilma graced South Florida with her presence. "Hurricane season busts your ass," he says. "I was in the hot seat for a while on that one. It was just an amazing meteorological event, and to see your community get ripped up in a matter of hours."

Police say 29-year-old Patrick Davis attempted to rob a man in a McDonald's in early March. The victim resisted, but for some reason, Davis stuck around — long enough for a Broward Sheriff's Office deputy to arrive and attempt to arrest him. Davis responded with "super strength," according to police, and broke free — until Finch and Ramos, white-haired homeless guys who happened to be in the restaurant, helped the deputy get Davis under control long enough for backup to arrive. Somebody get these guys some free McNuggets.

Best Of Broward-Palm Beach®

Best Of