Archive for February, 2010

Agri-Council Annual Farm Tour

Last week we hit the big time – the annual Agricultural Tour of South Dade came to visit us. Every year, the tour highlights an aspect of local agriculture. This year’s emphasis was on alternative agricultural activities, and the effects of the freezes in January.

Three busloads of local dignitaries, politicians, snowbirds, media personnel,  and local residents took turns visiting a fish farm, a bromeliad nursery, an organic farm (us!) and Farm Share, charitable food distribution organization that receives donations from local farmers and distributes them to needy families and organizations that feed the hungry.

It’s great to see that we are now recognized as legitimate agricultural producers. It wasn’t that long ago that local organic growers worked pretty much underground, without any support infrastructure – in part due to lack information. Land grant universities,such as the University of Florida, now have organic and sustainable agriculture research and training programs. The explosion in consumer demand for organic products has encouraged growers to convert to organic production.

You can listen to the WLRN/Miami Herald reports after the tour here and here.

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High Calcium Carrot

This carrot grew right through a piece of rock!

To understand how this is possible it’s necessary to understand how a carrot develops.  When the seed germinates it sends down a tap root which determines the length of the carrot.  Once the tap root is done growing in length it begins to grow in width, meaning it thickens.  The tap root isn’t particularly strong so when it hits a rock in the ground it can either go around it, break into 2 or 3 roots and continue or just stop there.  Rocky soils, like ours, produce oddly shaped carrots because of this; we regularly pull up curved carrots, stubby carrots and carrots with 2 or 4 legs.  In this particular case, when the tap root of this carrot hit this rock there must have been a hole in it that was perfectly aligned to let the root continue on to the other side.  What are the chances?  Amazing huh?

SHOW YOUR SUPPORT FOR FLORIDA’S FAMILY FARMS

Florida Food Freedom Act of 2010

Action needed

Florida’s family farmers and Floridians who want to eat locally-grown food need your help  to free Florida’s food and family farmers from burdensome regulation and fees.

Attached are all the tools you need to lend your voice in support of Florida family farmers, as well as a quick tutorial on the proposed legislation.  Passage of the Florida Food Freedom Act promises to bring Floridian’s a wider variety of healthy, locally-grown foods direct from the Florida farmer.  But we need your help.
Unlike many Americans who live in other states, Floridians are decades behind when it comes to getting fresh, locally-grown food.  It’s because the Florida Food Safety Act, passed in 1939  and amended over the years, has placed burdensome regulations and fees on all food producers regardless of size or style of food distribution.
These same regulations make it very difficult for Florida’s family farmers to make a living working their farmland.  Instead, as the family farmer ages (the average age of Florida farmers is 58.4 years old), they opt to sell their farmland for development.  Thousands of acres of valuable open farmland have been lost to this trend, a good part of it caused by regulations that treat every food maker the same – regardless of distribution channel.
The Florida Food Freedom Act of 2010 allows family farms to remain profitable and viable by defining a short food distribution chain and exempting it from burdensome regulatory oversight that a longer, multi-layered food distribution chain should be required to have.    The Florida Food Freedom Act permits a single-link food distribution chain that starts with the food producer, or the producer’s agent, and ends with the consumer.  The Florida Food Freedom Act acknowledges that the relationship between the producer and the consumer, including the producer’s integrity and the consumer’s interest in and knowledge of how the food is raised, harvested, and prepared provides sufficient oversight.
We need your support to free Florida’s Family Farmers and the people who want to consume locally-grown Florida Food.  Senator Carey Baker and Representative Bryan Nelson are introducing legislation in this legislative session. They need your support.
Here’s how you can  help
First, read the proposed Florida Food Freedom Act – it simply alters existing Florida Statues to better define the distribution chain.  Strikeout shows the old words and proposes eliminating those words.  Underlines indicate proposed new words to the existing Statutes.  There are two parts of the existing Florida Statutes that the Florida Food Freedom Act is attempting to change.
The first is 500.12 which currently exempts from permits folks who make cane syrup among other things.  Instead of defining the food sold, the Florida Food Freedom Act defines the transaction chain – showing that as long as the transaction chain is very short, it’s exempt from unnecessary regulation.  In the interest of food safety, the Florida Food Freedom Act also  requires  that producers who sell direct to the consumer take the Food Safety Manager Course, an educational program that gives the farmer the tools they need to handle food more safely.  This same course is required by restaurant and other foodservice managers.
The other part of the Florida Food Freedom Act changes a subsection of 583.01, bringing it in line with the requirements of the USDA for egg and poultry producers.  Current Florida statutes  under 583.01 make it nearly impossible for Florida farmers to grow and sell eggs or chicken directly to the consumer unless they are labeled “not for human consumption”.  By adopting the USDA regulations, which many other states have already adopted, small producers will be allowed to supply eggs and poultry directly to consumers.
Please use the Talking Points (backed by a Sources document) and the Draft Resolution to ask your County Commissioners’ and City Commissioners’ to back the Florida Food Freedom Act.  The Act promises economic benefits to local governments through improved tax bases and spending locally.  Getting your City and County Commissions’ endorsement means asking to speak before the Commissioners, educating them about how passage of the Act will help their local economy and constituents.
You can also educate groups you belong to and ask them to endorse the Act either by passing a similar Resolution to the one provided, or by sending their Florida Senate and House representatives letters and emails supporting Senator Baker’s bill – currently S #1900.
A separate House bill has not yet been introduced.  Like copies of the letters, copies of the endorsed Resolutions should be sent to both Senator Baker and Representative Nelson (see below for contact links).
Possible endorsing agencies, besides local government bodies, include:  Agricultural organizations  like 4H, Future Farmers of America, Master Gardeners, Cattlemen’s Association, Meat Sheep Alliance, Pastured Poultry Producers, Farmers Market Managers, Associations and their vendors, the local Ag program in your high school, Land-grant college associations/clubs, Beekeepers clubs, and others you may know about.  Other possible endorsing groups are groups that support environmental issues including preserving water quality, wildlife, open space and reducing the carbon foot print.  Other groups for endorsement are groups centered around food and food traditions like Slow Food, cooking clubs and other culinary groups.  If your group adopts a resolution or decides to support the legislation be sure to mention to the legislator that you represent so and so group which has xx amount of members.  There is POWER in NUMBERS.
Use the Talking Points document to mix and match paragraphs for letters to the editor, guest  editorials, your own blog, social networks like Facebook, letters to your Florida Representative  and Senator.  Feel free to change the wording so that it reflects your own personal opinion on  the matter.
Please be sure to send copies of petitions, endorsements, published letters to the editors, editorials, resolutions and all documentation supporting the passage of the Florida Food Freedom  Act to Senator Baker and Representative Nelson.  This will help them gain support from their peers.
Feel free to forward this entire package to concerned people in your network that want to buy locally-grown food and support family farmers, the environment, local food networks and the local economy.
It’s time to free Florida’s family farmers so that they can get food that they’ve grown direct to Floridians. Thank you for your help.
Contact Senator Baker: click here
Contact Representative Nelson: click here

Find the Florida Senator that represents you – all you have to know is your ZIP code: click here or

and click on the grey button that says “FIND YOUR REPRESENTATIVE” near the upper left corner of the page:

This is really important, so please take the time to read and follow up. Making your voice heard WILL have an impact. Consider these numbers:  in our Bee Heaven Farm CSA alone, we have over 500 current members. Our mailing list has over 3500 people in it. And each one of you have other connections – imagine the network! So spread the word and take action now. We will ALL benefit.
Margie's signature

Bee Heaven Farm ~ Redland Organics

Asian Mix

Our Asian Mix a.k.a. Braising Mix is a truly nice product, especially this time of year when we get consistent cool nights and bright sunny days with the occasional cold front. I love this time of year as much as our greens do. Everything is lined up just right for the healthy development of Brassicas (the family of plants that include most of the greens we grow, including Mustard, Kale, Pei Tsai, Tat Soi and many others) right now. The days are getting longer so there is more sunlight for photosynthesis. At night, when I take a walk with my head lamp on I can see the leaves covered with dew standing perky and fully hydrated. They have developed a strong root system by now so they are never without water or nutrients. The quality of these plants really comes through in our Asian Mix. We’ve harvested it twice for the CSA and we bring it to the Pinecrest Farmer’s Market every Sunday.This is Pei Tsai growing out in the field. This is a delicious and not so well know Asian green that we love and grow every year. It’s a fast growing plant that resembles something between a cabbage and lettuce, so it is great both raw and lightly braised. It has a light, sweet flavor with hints of cabbage and the texture is crisp but soft.

This is Lacinato Kale, a.k.a. Dinosaur Kale, which most people are familiar with. These plants are seeded in the beginning of the season and produce abundantly until the very end. They get sweeter the cooler it is. The kale in our Asian Mix adds heartiness and turns it into something that is very braisable.

This an example of what goes into the mix. From left to right, Yukina Savoy, Lacinato Kale, Osaka Purple Mustard, Pei Tsai, Red Russian Kale and Tres Fin Frisee. It’s a perfect balance of textures and flavors!

Here we are mixing 80+ pounds of the freshly picked leaves for the CSA. When they are all laid out on a table it is pretty spectacular.

This is the finished product, 1/2 pound per bag. We sell these at the farmer’s market for $4.50/each. One bag is enough to make a beautiful salad for up to 5 people or a few salads for a couple. When cooked, greens shrink down substantially in volume, but the nutrition in a dish accompanied by them is very high so you wont need much.

The pictures below where sent to me by Emily, one of this season’s interns.  They are so beautiful I had to add them to this post.

BEAUTIFUL!

Thanks Emily.

Potato Pandemonium! …a Possum Trot Experience

Join us Wednesday, February 24, 2010 for
A Possum Trot Experience!
POTATO  PANDEMONIUM
Native to the New World Tropics, potatoes are used
around the world in many different  cuisines. Experience the incredible variety of potatoes at this one-of-a-kind event.

Plethora of Potatoes

MENU
Potato Vichyssoise Soup with Multicolored Chips
Potato Salad with Carambola Relish
Scallopes Potato with Betel Leaf
Individual Potato Souffles
Parsley Potatoes
Smoked Potato Medley
Meat ‘n Potatoes
Potato Pancakes Topped with Fruit & Cas/Passion Sauce

Your unconventional experience will include sampling from a selection of 35 years’ worth of home-made wines from tropical fruits grown on the farm.

Limited seating in quasi-formal setting in a rustic old Florida farmhouse.
$100 per person  *  6:30 pm serving
Come early for an informal class on sustainable cooking techniques and unusual uses for local ingredients.

RSVP with advance payment required by Saturday, February 20th.
Cancellations accepted up to 48 hours prior to event. No refunds for no-shows or late cancellations.

To register, click here

Help support local agriculture!

Commissioner Katy Sorenson is the Chairwoman of the Budget, Planning, and Sustainability Committee.  There are three very important ordinances coming before her committee which will help increase the viability of small farmers and promote our area as the most progressive county in the country for eco, agri and culinary tourism.

Commissioner Sorenson’s committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, February 9th at 2pm.  These three ordinances are the first items on the agenda.

Please read the attached information. Briefly:

Ordinance # 093209 is what we call the “Value Added Ordinance”.   It will allow us to process products from what we grow and allow us to diversify and vertically integrate our operations.

Ordinance # 093195 is the “Bed and Breakfast Ordinance” which will allow us to open our property to overnight guests.  This is an important long-range approach to educating the general public about small local farms.  People who have an experiential connection to our agricultural way of life then better understand and support our agricultural area.

Ordinance # 093192 is a specific value added proposal that will allow for the production of beer and distilled sprits in addition to the already existing production of tropical fruit wines.

Please contact Commissioner Sorenson at District8@miamidade.gov and let her know of your support for these ordinances if you are not able to attend. It will come before the full commission at a later date when we will need lots of support again.  We’ll keep you posted.

All this information is at:  http://www.miamidade.gov/govaction/commagenda.

The scheduled agenda items are listed below:

1G1 093192 Ordinance Sen. Javier D. Souto, Co-Sponsor ORDINANCE AMENDING SECTION 33-1 OF THE CODE OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA (”CODE”), TO PROVIDE DEFINITIONS OF FARM-RELATED BREWERIES AND DISTILLERIES; AMENDING SECTION 33-279 OF THE CODE TO PERMIT BREWERIES AND DISTILLERIES IN THE AU (AGRICULTURAL) ZONING DISTRICT; MODIFYING CERTAIN REQUIREMENTS FOR WINERY, BREWERY, DISTILLERIES AND ANCILLARY USES; PROVIDING SEVERABILITY, INCLUSION IN THE CODE, AND AN EFFECTIVE DATE (DEPARTMENT OF PLANNING & ZONING)(Department of Planning & Zoning)   PDF 1/21/2010 Adopted on first reading by BCC Passed 13 – 0 1/21/2010 Tentatively scheduled for a public hearing before the Budget, Planning and Sustainability Committee Hearing Date: 2/9/2010 1G2

1G2 093195 Ordinance Sen. Javier D. Souto, Co-Sponsor ORDINANCE PERMITTING BED AND BREAKFAST ESTABLISHMENTS IN THE AU (AGRICULTURAL) ZONING DISTRICT SUBJECT TO CERTAIN RESTRICTIONS; PROVIDING STANDARDS; AMENDING SECTIONS 33-1, 33-124 AND 33-279 OF THE CODE OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA; PROVIDING SEVERABILITY, INCLUSION IN THE CODE, AND AN EFFECTIVE DATE (DEPARTMENT OF PLANNING & ZONING)(Department of Planning & Zoning)   PDF 1/21/2010 Adopted on first reading by BCC Passed 13 – 0 1/21/2010 Tentatively scheduled for a public hearing before the Budget, Planning and Sustainability Committee Hearing Date: 2/9/2010 1G3

1G3 093209 Ordinance Sen. Javier D. Souto, Co-Sponsor ORDINANCE AMENDING SECTION 33-279 OF THE CODE OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA TO PERMIT CERTAIN ADDITIONAL USES THAT ARE ANCILLARY TO AN ONGOING AGRICULTURAL USE OR DIRECTLY SUPPORTVE OF AGRICULTURE IN THE AU (AGRICULTURAL) ZONING DISTRICT; PROVIDING SEVERABILITY, INCLUSION IN THE CODE, AND AN EFFECTIVE DATE (DEPARTMENT OF PLANNING & ZONING)(Department of Planning & Zoning)   PDF 1/21/2010 Adopted on first reading by BCC Passed 13 – 0 1/21/2010 Tentatively scheduled for a public hearing before the Budget, Planning and Sustainability Committee Hearing Date: 2/9/2010

Busy!

You can tell we’ve been really busy – our blog posts have become more infrequent. We’re fast approaching the height of the harvest season here. Farmers markets are off and running. We’ve been harvesting and replanting. We’re halfway through our CSA season (already). There are all sorts of events happening now, and the weather is lovely.

A couple of events coming up:  Potato Pandemonium! – A Possum Trot Experience, will be held on Wednesday, Feb 24th. This exploration of all things potato will feature 8 potato-based dishes, from soup to dessert, accompanied by sampling from a 35-year collection of homemade tropical fruit wines Very limited seating – click here to register.

The Slow Food Miami’s  Slow Bike Farm Tour and Brunch is scheduled for Feb 27th. Starting and ending at Bee Heaven Farm, the short 7.5 mile ride will stop at 3 other area farms. The farms – Fancy Koi 2, Going Bananas! and Teena’s Pride, together with BHF, highlight the amazing diversity of our local agricultural enterprises. The tour will be followed by a brunch prepared by well-know local chefs.

Hope to see you at one of the events, or at the Pinecrest Gardens Farmers Market any Sunday between 9 and 2!


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