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by rebecca kleinman | November 1, 2010 | Food & Drink
Farmers’ markets have sprouted everywhere from hotel lobbies to shopping malls, and now the mother lode of South Florida’s crop comes to Hollywood. In an old-fashioned ribbon-cutting ceremony straight out of a Norman Rockwell illustration, Yellow Green Farmers Market debuted in a 100,000-square-foot former steel factory in early October. The ambitious undertaking cherry-picked 150 vendors occupying 330 booths to hawk hundreds of organic, gourmet and handcrafted items. The comprehensive selection is divided equally between food, such as produce, seafood, honey, jellies and baked goods, and wares including jewelry, clothing, plants, fresh-cut flowers and arts and crafts.
“We wanted a farmers’ market with more than veggies, where it’s about the whole lifestyle,” says Eyal Lalo, one of the many family members (including wife Keren and sister Gany) behind the multimillion-dollar project inspired by their father, Abraham Lalo, and a love of nature and farm-fresh food.
A Look Inside Yellow Green Farmers Market
The market grew out of nostalgic memories from each relative’s childhood and Eyal’s creative and entrepreneurial contributions. The multicultural family hails from spots around the globe where flavorful, exquisite spices and produce are part of everyday culture. Abraham moved his family around a lot, but always to places with strong farm-to-table traditions, whether Panama or in Europe. When the extended clan reconvened in South Florida, they missed the bustling, small-town feel of a market that was equal parts healthy and convenient.
“It’s also about having a wholesome environment for families, which we felt was lacking here with the proliferation of seedy flea markets,” says Eyal, whose own children, nieces and nephews help with designing menus, passing out flyers and other tasks. “We really want to educate kids about animals, general wellness and where their food comes from, all while having fun.”
Manager Violeta Beaumont’s mission is to cull every green aspect possible to run a household. Since booth rentals are so cheap, vendors can pass along savings to customers who are normally outpriced from this option. She found disposable bags, dishware and utensils made with biodegradable corn, nontoxic cleaning supplies that are safe enough to apply to skin, natural salves formulated by an African medicine woman, soy candles, and spa therapists for aromatherapy and chair massages. On-site chefs prepare dishes with seasonal produce to help home cooks reclaim common know-how that has been lost after decades of microwave dinners.
“But I think people will really go nuts for the dairy products like freshly churned butters, cheeses and organic eggs. Most have never tasted the real deal,” she says.
Kathie Sullivan, a Davie-based food broker known in culinary circles as the Cheese Whiz, crafted an assortment out of her personal wish list from her 34 years in the business: Vermont Butter & Cheese Creamery’s cultured, European-style butter with 86 percent butterfat (ideal for cooking); cage-free eggs gathered two days prior upstate at Lake Meadows Naturals in Ocoee; Amish yogurt cheese for the lactose-intolerant.
“We’re bringing in a ton of products from Holmes County, Ohio—Amish country—where they make cheese the old-fashioned way, in copper vats,” she says. Amish dry goods like granola, Hungarian noodles, apple butter and condiments are also on hand. “We located an Ohio pie company dating from the ’40s for the most incredible-tasting fruit varieties using Maine blueberries and New York Ida Red apples. Their secret to flaky dough, just like Mama’s, is small batches rather than bulk processing.”
Plus, foodies need not wait until they’re home to wolf down purchases. It’s easy to while away hours at the dining area with free Wi-Fi and live music. Beaumont says the menu of freshly prepared cuisine and beverages is endless—natural juices, homemade lemonade, gourmet coffee, grilled corn on the cob, burgers, sushi, crepes and latkes comprise a mere sampling. “We’re prepared to feed thousands of people,” she says. “All that shopping makes people hungry!”
Jason “Pepe” Tormo, owner of locally based Pepe’s Plants, hopes that farmers’ markets can one day come full circle—customers buy his sustainable, tropical trees such as mango, avocado, guava and lychee, and the following season sell their harvest to vendors. “Everyone should look at his backyard, no matter how big or small, as a grove for fresh produce. That way we’ll truly have local food,” he says.
Tormo’s booth also draws traffic for “miracle fruit,” a berry that temporarily alters taste perception from sour to sweet. Beyond the novelty, he says, some people believe it may benefit diabetics and chemo-therapy patients.
Argentine vendors Marcelo Boix and his wife, Andrea, design Baganus, an eco-friendly clothing collection of 100 percent organic cotton and chemical-free dyes for adults, children and infants. They were attracted by the green factor of the market as well as its aesthetics. “We were impressed by the contrast of this midcentury steel factory and the rustic farm vibe with country colors and imagery. It’s so different here,” says Marcelo.
Eyal agrees that it doesn’t feel like you’re in South Florida. The covered, open-air design sans air conditioning gets locals out of enclosed spaces rain or shine. Hay, blown-up prints of pastoral scenes, and faux, life-size barnyard animals complete with background sounds of moos and clucks are certainly a world away from South Beach. “We even hung laundry from the ceiling for that extra effect,” he says.
The process of creating such a large-scale venture was not without its obstacles, but given Abraham’s tenacity and vision, the project gained the immense respect of residents and was a hit right out of the gate. The Sunday morning grand opening event generated a major turnout. “My father saw this unique opportunity to do something of real value for the community,” Eyal says.
photographs by justin namon/worldredeye.com