Our annual food guide, Taste, hits newsstands Thursday, February 19. In this year's issue, you'll find guides to local food neighborhoods; interviews with local coffee roasters, chefs, and chocolatiers; and a handy roundup of South Florida's breweries. Readers of Clean Plate Charlie don't have to wait. Here's a sneak peek from 2015's Taste Guide, and you can follow this link to see other Taste Guide posts you may have missed.
Hollywood's Yellow Green Farmers Market is hardly a shrinking violet. Standing at a whopping 100,000 square feet, the sprawling building is marked by neon-hued flags, colorful banners, and a distinctive tin roof.
It's hard to miss -- once you know it's there. But located in an otherwise-residential neighborhood, the locavore landmark doesn't get much in the way of foot traffic. Many South Floridians are still unaware it even exists.
Despite that, the community market has grown rapidly since its launch five years ago. From Yelp reviews to Instagram shots to Facebook shares, social media and word of mouth have led folks from across the region to seek out its unique bounty of produce and products.
It's here that shoppers, often with dogs or children in tow, can browse for Venus flytraps and organic kale, nibble on oil-cured olives and gluten-free cupcakes, listen to live music, and sip fresh-squeezed juices -- even paint their own pottery -- all in an afternoon. There's nothing else like it anywhere in the area.
Since 2010, Mark Menagh has served as the market's general manager, overseeing operations and helping the space grow and evolve. First and foremost, he emphasizes that Yellow Green is not a flea market, a common misconception among South Floridians.
"It's a farmers' market, which means we highlight food and specialty food and reflect the culture of South Florida in the food industry -- not just agriculturally but specialty food as well."
Owned by the Lalo family (founders of the Invicta watch company), the market was launched as a way to give back to the community and help local citizens flex their entrepreneurial muscles. Retailers of all sizes and types occupy the space's booths, from a vegan deli to a homemade pickle purveyor to an organic farm stand.
When Menagh first took over, there weren't a lot of requests for organic, gluten-free, or vegan/vegetarian food. Since then, there's been an enormous shift in consumer demand, and a half dozen of the market's current booths cater to vegan and vegetarian diners, says Menagh, not to mention all the retailers who offer gluten-free prepared foods, organic produce, and other niche, artisanal products.
As the community has grown and evolved, the market has followed suit.
"We adapt and follow what the community is looking for," says Menagh.
The market is also about facilitating local economic growth. Menagh and the Lalos believe Yellow Green should serve as a launch pad for locals looking to try their hand at running a small business.
From licensing to production to regulations, the team helps vendors sort out their startups.
"All those things about starting a business -- we're here to consult and offer them advice," says Menagh. And while rent remains relatively low at $328 per month for an eight-by-eight-foot booth, the price will increase as the market becomes more popular.
Eventually, Menagh would like to see the market become a regional hub.
"Our vision is for it to become a food hall with a variety of businesses all focused on food and arts and crafts here in South Florida. There are other models for that in the nation and around the world. If you go back to the traditional markets in Europe, in the town squares with everybody selling different things from all around -- that's what we're talking about.
"We would love to add a commercial kitchen to the market so people can prepare food here," Menagh adds.
In recent months, the market has expanded its days of operation to include Thursdays and Fridays (in addition to its traditional days of Saturday and Sunday). It also added a new, air-conditioned section, opening doors to businesses that might otherwise not have been able to set up shop in an open-air facility.
Visitation has been booming, Menagh adds. In the height of the season last year, the market was seeing 3,500 to 4,000 visits per day on Saturdays and Sundays. This year, numbers are even larger. Although he hasn't been able to do an official count (since recently expanding parking access to include an adjacent lot), he estimates that there are about 5,000 customers on an average Sunday.
"Our numbers have been growing over 20 percent each season over the previous season. I do expect an even larger growth percentage this season," he adds.
Menagh and the Lalo family see the market -- and farmers' markets in general -- as stewards of the community. They believe the market plays a crucial role in fostering healthy lifestyles and a locally oriented economy.
"When you desire to eat locally, eat fresh, eat food produced by your neighbors -- to make a choice to support the local economy and local agriculture -- it's very important," Menagh says, "and farmers' markets meet that demand.
"I've been doing this for about 15 years, and I'm learning so much from the people here about what ingredients they use and how they make their food special.
"It's just really fun to see that kind of food taken to that level."
Yellow Green Farmers Market is located at 1940 N. 30th Road, Hollywood. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Parking and admission are free. Visit YGFarmersMarket.com, or call 954-513-3990.
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