Muriel Olivares

Where do you live?
I live in Little Haiti.

How long have you lived in the area? 
I’ve lived in this area since 2010.

Where are you originally from and what brought you to town?
I was born in Argentina and my family moved here when I was a kid. I grew up in South Miami and went to high school at New World School of the Arts, which is downtown. That’s when I started discovering the whole other side of Miami, the east side of Miami. When I first moved back to Miami in 2006, I moved onto a sailboat, for four years, at the Miami Yacht Club on Watson Island.  

Are there other people who live on boats there as well?
Oh yeah. There’s a whole community of people who live there.

What keeps you busy during the week?
It’s a very complicated answer. My job at Little River Cooperative, that I run with Tiffany, is very diverse. It’s everything from being at our nursery, planting seeds for eight hours straight, to installing gardens for clients or doing maintenance on their gardens. I am also working at the farm with our incubator participants.

What is the incubator?
Our farm gets divided up into blocks and we offer them to people every season. This is our second year. People join as beginning farmers and we teach them. There are workshops that go with it, and they get to go through the whole season under our wing. And then the next year if they’re feeling ready, they can go off and start their own farm. I also have a daughter and squeeze some yoga and family time in too.  

Where is Little River Cooperative?
Our nursery is now in Alapatta. We used to be in Little River, but last summer we moved.  

How are you getting the message out?  
We have a very active Instagram where we post informative things to help people be more responsible citizens of our town. We talk about the environment, eating healthy, not wasting and using less. I think our farmer’s market is sort of outreach too. We’re at the Legion Park Farmer’s Market every Saturday during November to April.  When we’re there, we’re not only selling vegetables, but we’re selling organic fertilizers and we talk about organic farming. Our workshops are specifically geared towards local people gardening in this unique climate. The tropics are different from the rest of the country. A lot of people who live here don’t realize that our seasons are flipped. We farm in the winter, not the summer.

How have you seen the community change since 2012?
Since we started doing this, there’s been a steady climb in interest in what we do. I think that’s because it’s trendy but it’s also a great and very healthy thing. People want to buy things directly from farms and grow their own.

Have you started planting and what are you growing this year?
Oh yeah. September 1st is usually our start date. We started, mostly in the nursery. October 1st is when we start planting in the ground. We’ve literally planted anything you can think of – tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and all the greens.  We’re also growing cut flowers for bouquets. Flowers take a little longer to mature. We started pretty much all of our flowers already – sunflowers and native wild flowers too.

How often do you come to our market?
I don’t get to come to your market often because it’s far. I have very fond memories with the Pinecrest Market because when I first started farming I interned with Margie at Bee Heaven. I worked at that market my first two years learning about farming. I think it’s such a beautiful place. I love to take my daughter there because of the park inside.

Favorite market story:
There are very magical moments at a farmer’s market. All these people living nearby that know each other. They have their dogs, there’s a newborn baby and then they’re older kids and it just seems like such a melting pot. You don’t see a gathering on the street in Miami very much, but it happens at the farmer’s market all the time.  

A favorite activity I enjoy with my kids?
We’re a very artistic family so we love to draw and do craft projects together. I love to watch her draw too because I’m fascinated by things she creates. I like gardening with her, but she doesn’t like gardening as much – it’s hot and dirty.   

What’s your favorite thing to buy at LNB Grovestand and why?
This week, I got the rainbow smoothie. When you choose a smoothie at your stand, you’re like, I don’t know which one to choose because they’re all going to be good. So when Adena recommended the rainbow, I said sure. With the Rainbow Smoothie, you’re just kind of walking around, not paying attention to your smoothie and just drinking it and then you get all these different waves of flavor coming and going. And I was like, Jackfruit! And then oh my God, something else. All these other flavors surprising you – It’s really cool.

What can we do as LNB groves to help you more?
You guys should grow more vegetables. You guys are already amazing, hands down one of our favorite farms. We wish we could include more of your stuff in our CSA.

Who else is helping build our food community that we should be aware of?
We have a partner farm, French Farms – started four years ago by Tiffany’s boyfriend Chris French. He’s trained as an engineer, hard-working and a natural at farming. What you guys are to fruit, he is to vegetables – great quality, great varieties and always getting better.  His standards are really high, and it shows.

Also, there’s a new farm in Homestead called, Produce and Pantry. They came out of our incubator program last year. When they graduated this past summer, they started their own farm!

What do you grow that people can’t get enough?
Probably the thing we can’t seem to grow enough of is Broccoli. People love Broccoli. 

Most-frequented local restaurants and what dish to order:
We don’t go out that much. We like to cook at home for the most part, mainly because it’s healthier – also affordable. I love Thai food, so we like to go to Cake Thai. I always get the same thing – crispy tofu that’s cooked in a basil sauce. There’s so much basil it’s like spinach.

What do you cook at home on a regular night?
We cook a lot of vegetables and we improvise. We don’t use recipes much. We are omnivores and eat dairy and everything. But my favorite way to eat or cook is roasted. I keep it simple – oil and salt and I use high heat because they cook faster and make it crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. I usually roast them at over 400 for 25 minutes. The trick is not to pack too much vegetables into one pan.  It should be a thin layer.

For special occasions, I go to: 
I have a bit of a tradition for my birthday. I like to go to 27 Restaurant. They have specials that are different all the time, which is part of why I like it. They cook vegetables really, really well.  

A worthy splurge:
I work physically very hard, so a splurge could be a cold beer or ice cream.  

Rainy-day activity:
We often have to work in the rain because in farming, there’s a lot of it.  If we have to harvest stuff for our CSA and the farmer’s market, sometimes we have to do it in the rain. I would love to just sit and watch the rain, with a drink. Our backyard is like a jungle, so when it rains it’s like being in a tropical rain forest.

The most romantic spot around:
I live really close to the Little River which goes out to the Biscayne Bay right around 79th street. There are a few like canals or waterways that come through Belle Meade. There are places where you can sit at the end of a dead-end street where the canals are coming in. Sometimes when there’s a full moon it comes up over the bay and it’s nice to sit and watch it rise.  

Would you share about your CSA?
We are getting really close to being sold out right now. We have 22 spots left out of 130 and we’re about to announce that we’re going to be offering a new pickup location on South Beach. We so far have pickups at Legion Park Farmer’s Market and Coconut Grove. And people basically go to our website and they get to choose between two CSA share sizes.

What does it take to make a good CSA box?
We actually have a fun recipe that we follow to make a good box. We put it in salad greens, then we put in cooking greens, we put in a root vegetable, we put in an herb, and then we put in something that’s a snack (like cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, something you could eat it in the car), and a fruit or two. It’s going to be well rounded.

Is there a trick to using your box successfully at home?
Good question. We have a newsletter that goes out to our CSA members. We get very specific about the order in which the vegetables should be eaten so you can take advantage of them when they’re the freshest. For example, salad is in the sooner than later range.

Do you participate in any community or philanthropic events that you would like to share? 
Chantelle Sookram, who works for Urban Oasis Project, cofounded Love and Vegetables, a vegan pop-up dinner series hosted at the Earth ‘n Us Farm.  We’re going to be doing one of the dinners. She uses all ingredients from the farm. About 30 tickets get sold and everyone has dinner, family style, together.

Is there a question that you would like to ask the LNBs?
How are you guys so cool? And, please post more pictures on your instagram because you have so much beautiful stuff going on all the time on the farm and not enough of it is ending up on the Internet.

If you would like readers to be able to contact you, how should they get in touch?
Through our website:
Or on Instagram: @littlerivercooperative