The Little River Market Garden is made up of 2 small vegetable, cut flower and herb gardens. Although the gardens are not certified yet, we use only organic and sustainable practices of agriculture. Our number one priority is to grow the most nutritious and beautiful produce. We believe that the health of our soil is directly related to the quality of our harvest so we take as much care of the soil as we do any of the crops, focusing on compost, cover-crops and no-till methods to sustain the micro-organisms and organic matter in our fields. The garden specializes in producing a variety of about 40 vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers. The Little River Market Garden is a fertile place for nourishment, gathering, education and good times outdoors for our neighbors, friends and family.
Photo credit: Jayme Gershen
Muriel Olivares was born in Cordoba, Argentina in 1983. She came to the US as a young child with her family, looking for a better life, the American dream. Growing up in Miami offered the best of both worlds, the opportunities of America and a multi-cultural environment. Her family has always kept an Argentine tradition at home and she feels strongly connected to her roots. She believes that her semi-rural, semi-suburban upbringing, including having her father build their home from scratch, pulling carrots out of the huerta, making mud pies with neighbors, clothes lines by the side of the house, water tank on the roof, and climbing Mulberry trees when they were loaded with fruit has left a wonderful, lasting impression on her.
In Miami, she attended David Fairchild Elementary School, where she learned English and caught the attention of the art teacher. That teacher helped Muriel, at the age of 11, put together a portfolio to apply for the magnet art program at South Miami Middle School. She was the only kid from her elementary school to get in to the program. That was the beginning of a productive and successful art education. She attended New World School of the Arts for high school and later won a full tuition scholarship based on artistic merit to a prestigious college, San Francisco Art Institute.
While in college, she got a job as a florist, making and selling fresh bouquets on a busy corner of one of San Francisco’s most beautiful Victorian neighborhoods by the bay. Working artistically with live plants was where the transition materialized in her mind from art and design to botany and horticulture. She took classes at the City College of San Francisco on plant propagation, botanical nomenclature, greenhouse production and composting. These classes provided a basic knowledge of soil and plant physiology which sparked her interest in agriculture.
It wasn’t until a few years later, after working for some of the most distinguished floral design studios in San Francisco, New York City and Miami that Muriel had a revelation and decided to dedicate her life to land stewardship through the production of organic vegetables and flowers in an environmentally sustainable way. She felt it would be one of the most rewarding and honorable things she could do in her life time.
To begin this new venture she set out to complete a series of internships on small organic farms. The first was at Bee Heaven Farm, in Redland, Florida, with Margie Pikarsky. She worked there for more than 9 months and gained experience with many valuable things such as permaculture, organic pest and disease management, tropical horticulture, native plant habitats, row cropping, irrigation, fruit grove management, as well as the many aspects of running a very large CSA.
The second internship she completed was at Four Winds Farm, in the Hudson Valley, New York, with Jay and Polly Armour. This experience empowered her with a paramount comprehension of what a truly sustainable family farm can strive to be. For 5 months she was one of two interns who worked one on one with Jay to make it all happen. They not only grew 5 acres of row crops, focusing on heirloom tomatoes, but also intensively managed a grazing herd of 13 cows, raised over 100 chickens for meat, 4 pigs and a small flock of ducks. Muriel continues to hone most of the agricultural practices she learned at Four Winds, including no-till, mulching, large scale composting, and hydro cooling after harvest.
While in New York that summer she kept in touch with Margie from Bee Heaven Farm, whom she had become close friends with. Margie offered her the opportunity to manage the farm that next Fall. Managing a farm was an obvious next step and it proved to be challenging and educationally rewarding. The season went well despite the unusual freezes in South Florida. Muriel was responsible for managing the crop production as well as a group of 4-8 interns and volunteers, including some more experienced young farmers such as herself, some beginners, a teenager and a mentally disabled young man.
That Fall Muriel attended the Southern Sustainable Working Agriculture Group Conference where she became inspired to find a piece of land to start her own farm. At the conference the presence of young people who were venturing out on their own was strong and varied, some were leasing land and others were creating crop sharing agreements with land owners. The event pushed her to think outside of the box and be creative about finding land, which in South Florida is especially problematic because urban and suburban development have raised the land value far out of reach for agricultural use.
In May of 2010 she secured the perfect plot of vacant land in Miami which is now officially the Little River Market Garden.
For the first few months her concentration was on nurturing the soil by making an abundance of compost and establishing a thick leguminous cover crop. After a successful first growing season an opportunity to expand production came up and she took it. During the summer of 2011, with the help of volunteers and interns, a second larger garden was created to add to the bounty of the Little River CSA and market stand.