The closest that most of the world has come to the Little Farm was during the pilot episode of HBO’s original series Ballers.
In the show, retired NFL player Charles Greane works as a salesman at the very real Tropical Chevrolet car dealership (8800 Biscayne Blvd) before Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson swoops in to convince him to get back on the field.
But three blocks away at the Little Farm trailer park in El Portal (8500 Biscayne Blvd), the HBO cameras wouldn’t dream of going. No luxury to be found there. Just unspeakable despair.
There, one of Miami’s former great working class neighborhoods has been turned into a slum by years of bad landlords and poor governmental oversight.
The Little Farm is not talked about much- mostly because few people seem to know about it and even fewer care.
There’s lots of poor people in Miami and the area’s middle class is somewhat used to the idea that poverty is close to home.
Homeless men and women are a ubiquitous site at most I-95 off ramps in the area, meaning that it is near impossible to avoid the thought of abject poverty on your daily commute.
And yet, we ignore it and go home to our comfortable lives filled with Netflix and minor inconveniences.
But the Little Farm is different.
I’ve lived six minutes away my entire life and didn’t know about it until a few months ago when one of our reporters wrote about it.
And even then, I didn’t fully comprehend what was happening there until I got off my ass and drove into the development last week.
“They Didn’t Tell Us Nothing”
Clairmise Blanc is fed up.
A youthful looking Haitian woman in her early 70’s, Blanc is the defacto point person for outsiders to the Little Farm. She also lives right next to a burnt out trailer that stinks to high heavens.
“My husband died on April 22, 2011 and left me here alone,” Blanc said to me, causing me to pause and offer my condolences. “I’d like to live here. But there’s no future in this. Everything is down, especially at the nighttime. Too many people are drug addicts here. I don’t like it no more. I’ve tried to find other places to go.”
Born in Haiti, she moved to the United States in 1981 and has lived at the Little Farm for eight years. She owns her own trailer, but it is poor shape, with holes in the windows and a sagging look to it. She also pays $450 a month for the trailer to sit on her small plot.
At one time, hundreds of trailers dotted the 17 acre property, but after a Chinese company bought the property last year, people started getting evicted. Then came the buy out offers– $2,000 to up and leave.
If you didn’t take the deal, it wouldn’t matter much because you had to leave under the terms of a deal the Village of El Portal signed with the Chinese company- Wealthy Delight.
From a Miami New Times report on Little Farm a few months ago:
“One day last February, everything changed. Little Farm was sold for $14.25 million, and Wealthy Delight, a company based in Coral Gables but whose owners are difficult to trace, took over. Soon it became clear the Village of El Portal had agreed to forgive more than $8 million in liens on the site if the new owners paid $575,000 and razed the mobile home park.”
Many people took the buy outs and soon their trailers were razed.
Legal action has delayed the complete eviction of the remaining residents at Little Farm, but only around 40 people remain according to Blanc. And they will all certainty will be pushed out in the coming months.
“They didn’t tell us nothing,” Blanc said. “They’ve tried to push us away. It’s not fair.”
According to multiple witnesses, a fire broke out in a Little Farm trailer on the evening of February 19th.
“It was a mother, son and a daughter was living in there,” Blanc said.
While no one was hurt, the fire was intense and devastating.
The family living there had to move- one less eviction for Wealthy Delight to conduct.
Blanc’s trailer sits less than 15 feet away from the burnt out trailer. Nearly two months after the blaze, little has been cleaned up and the smell is starting to become unbearable for the remaining residents in the area.
“I’m tired of that smell, it just stinks,” Blanc said. “I want them to clean this thing. It is a mess. People can’t live like this.”
I start to cough after the breeze picks up and I notice how disgusting the burnt out remnants really are.
“That’s the office right there,” Blanc said while pointing towards the land lord management building across the road.
The burnt out unit is directly in front of the office, which means that the land lord would have to see it everyday as they arrive for work.
“They don’t care,” Blanc said of Wealthy Delight. “You think if they cared, they would have cleaned it a long time ago. But it’s been two months now. If they cared, they would have cleaned it because people are living here.
I ask her if she thinks the trailer hasn’t been cleaned up as a way to get her to move.
She demurs and says that in order for her to leave they are going to have to fork out more money.
El Portal Village Manager Jason Walker told RISE NEWS that he had not been aware of the fire but that it was the landlord’s responsibility to clean it up.
A representative for Wealthy Delight refused to answer questions on the phone and asked for questions via email, which they have also not answered.
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All Photo Credits: Rich Robinson/RISE NEWS.