In Memoriam: Jessica Zendell
Editor’s note: Visitors to the Upper Eastside Farmers Market on Saturdays will remember the smiling face of Jessica Zendell, market assistant at Urban Oasis Project. In remembrance of Zendell, who recently passed away, Urban Oasis’ Art Friedrich, Jeannie Necessary and Jazmin Locke share these thoughts:
It is rare to meet someone who smiles in the face of uncertainty, laughs through exhaustion and shines naturally with joy among a fast-paced, demanding world, but this is how our beloved market assistant, Jessica, decided to face the world. A song by Carole King perfectly encapsulated the spirit of Jessica: “Beautiful” – with the lyrics, "You've got to get up every morning with a smile on your face and show the world all the love in your heart.” Jessica was a spirit – a bright one that was taken from us far too soon.
She was Urban Oasis Project’s market assistant for the past three years and was only 32 years old when she passed unexpectedly last week. A passionate vegan full of love who made amazing vegan brownies, she became a little bit of a legend because of those brownies among our customers at the Upper Eastside Market.
We all mainly work loading and unloading our affectionately named truck Peaches, restocking fresh produce and bumping into each other behind the Upper Eastside market tables. From the first day we met her, we all knew that she was a gem. Miami likes to talk a lot about local food – eating it, growing it, finding it – but we are not sure how aware we are on how much work truly goes into sustaining our food and how few shoulders the responsibility falls on. On one Saturday morning alone, Urban Oasis Project moves over 2,000 pounds of produce by hand to markets across Miami. Many people who join up with the movement bring with them passion and are excited to make a difference, and yet when they realize there is intangible progress, with minimal recognition, you see people fade in and out quickly.
Jessica was a unshakable rock, ready to ride the waves of the mission without requiring a spotlight; living up to what it really means to be the cornerstone of a community. Her spirit will remain with us, in the laughter shared at the market, in the sweat shed, and within warm hugs shared among friends. We are all so fortunate that she touched our lives. She will be greatly missed.