Meet Art Friedrich, founder of the Urban Oasis Project

📸 Photo by Jose Diaz

Howdy, Art! Who are you? What do you do?

I’m the co-founder and Executive Director of the non-profit Urban Oasis Project since 2009, building a local food movement for all here in Miami-Dade County. I also run Greenthumb Popcorn, which is a healthy popcorn snack brand, although since Whole Foods abandoned us last month I’m focusing this business on running a shared commercial kitchen space for our numerous food artisans who need space to create.

What neighborhood(s) are you reppin’?

Glenvar Heights, the Upper Eastside, the Redland, and Dania — I’m all over the South Florida map!

What brings you most alive about the 305?

The surprises of real humanity and ecological consciousness hidden beneath the ever-present conspicuous consumption and overhype we are inundated with.

If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?

The Crispy Duck from Bangkok City or any Pho from Pho 79 near Dadeland are both go-to meals when we’re tired of eating at home, but honestly, there are few restaurants to compare with the greatness of my husband’s nightly meals made with local produce — no culinary tricks beat fresh ingredients grown with love!

Outside of the obvious stop above, share your other top three destinations for where you’d go on your perfect Miami day.

I’ve recently, belatedly, discovered how wonderful the crew running Club Space, Factory Town, and III Points is. Despite my upstanding reputation, I’ve always also been a crazy dancing raver at heart, so I’d have to start with hours of dancing to excellent house music wherever their best party is. After the sun comes up, brunch at Coral Bagels is fun and delicious if I’m not at one of our farmers markets, but I’m probably just going to head to Legion Park or Vizcaya if it’s the weekend because there are so many good people, great food, and community hanging out there.

What’s your favorite local social media account and why?

@JessyNite is a local artist whose work I love for its distinct positive Miami vibes.

If you could give any one piece of advice to locals, what would it be?

Foster the notion that we all do better helping each other out instead of competing. I’ve seen the most beautiful community grow up around me by adhering to these principles. Have faith, give trust, do good and eventually the rewards come back to you. But also, trust your intuition and set firm boundaries — we’ve all seen that Miami is also full of plenty of people who want to take advantage of everything.

How does Miami help you do what you do or influence your work?

So many great people building businesses and community in small venues like the farmers markets. I hate social media and marketing, but good folks like @littlerivercooperative have shown me the value and importance of it.

If there was one thing you could change or fix in Miami, what would it be?

Civic engagement and philanthropy! Miami has some of the lowest statistics for people volunteering to help others, as well as for the amount of people giving to charitable causes. Everyone should have at least one charitable cause they give some time to — it’s going to take all of us on every level to build the world that we want to live in.

What are you looking forward to as this year wraps up?

Being a part of an incredible group taking the local food movement to the next level! We’re building a new farm incubator and training center thanks to a $2.5 million USDA grant in partnership with French Farms and Little River Cooperative. With our new grant, we’re going to establish a resource and training center that will impact Miami for decades to come!

That’s a wrap on this week’s Locals to Know. Know someone who ought to be featured or would like to be featured yourself? Reach out by sending an email to [email protected] with the subject line “TNT Locals to Know 2023.” If chosen, you might just see yourself or a friend in a future newsletter.