In the 22 years since the Miami Chamber of Commerce decided to do something about the growing number of homeless individuals in their county, more than 10,000 have been placed into housing, including 145 families in the most unique solution yet– an organic farm and market.
A military base reduced to rubble during Hurricane Andrew became the site for this sustainable community which features LEED-certified townhouses, social services to transition people from the streets, a 22-acre certified organic farm and year-round farmers market with job training for the cultivation of nursery plants.
Most recently, the Verde Gardens community debuted an open-air restaurant that employs ten residents in the kitchen and cafe. Revenue from all these eco-friendly ventures goes toward paying good wages to the cafe staff and the five resident farmers.
Eventually, the hope is that the staffers, many of whom have little or no prior work experience, will have learned enough through working there to prepare them for “real-world” jobs outside of the Verde community.
“To see our vision for Verde Gardens finally coming to life is very exciting,” said Stephanie Berman, president and CEO of Carrfour Supportive Housing, the nonprofit set up by the Chamber more than 20 years ago to develop and manage communities for low income people in South Florida.
“We have seen the farm encourage self-sufficiency and togetherness among residents for two years now and hope that the restaurant will do the same.”
Resident Alma Santos summed up the residents’ feelings about the Carrfour community. “Thank you, thank you, thank you,” Santos said tearfully, standing beside her 14-year-old son at a ceremony marking the opening of Verde Gardens. “You have forever changed our lives and made it possible for us to now help others.”
Like farmers markets nationwide, Verde Market and Café allows food stamp customers (SNAP-eligible) to receive up to $40 worth of fresh produce for $20.
The restaurant offers a true farm-to-table experience, with lunch options including mozzarella margherita thin-crust pizza, fresh-made hummus salad with organic red dragonfruit, and eggplant burgers. A rotating healthy menu was created by Chef Adri Garcia, the owner of a local catering company.
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