Archive for the 'Interns, Apprentices & WWOOFers' Category

Cornucopia Institute posts Miami Herald article- Bee Heaven owner: Organic farming is good for the foodie — and the land


via Bee Heaven Owner: Organic farming is good for the foodie — and the land.

First Market Day at Pinecrest Gardens

Wow, what a great start to market season! Folks showed up early to see what was on hand, and they kept coming, and coming, and coming…

at the market

first week at Pinecrest Gardens market

By 9am, the official start time, we were mobbed. The weather was great. The setting was awesome. There was plenty of parking and lots of space for many vendors. The mix was good. Pretty much everyone from the old Gardners Market site was there, plus some new folks.

Even this early in the season, we had lots of great goodies, and every single thing in our booth was (and always is) locally-grown, from either our own farm or our farm partners. We had interesting things like charichuela (Rheedia spp), black sapote, root basil, YingYang salad mix, fresh oyster mushrooms, smoked eggs, Yukina Savoy, Shungiku radishes, butterhead lettuces, callaloo, our dried Fruits of Summer mix, farm honey, and lots of other wonderful goodies.

our foodshed

how far did your food travel

Everything comes from South Florida, Lake Okeechobee south, except for the tupelo and orange blossom honey, which are from further upstate.

In addition, everything we sell is certified organic, or pesticide-free, and direct from the farm.

Furthermore, at our booth, you will be dealing with the very folks that are growing your food. That’s our guarantee!

And, of course, in honor of the closing of Art Basel week in Miami, our booth had its own resident local artist, our daughter Rachel, complete with exhibit…

Art Basil by Rachel

Thanksgiving in the barn

The year we started the CSA, we also began a new trandition – Thanksgiving dinner in the barn. Family, friends, WWOOFers and interns join us at a very long table running the length of the barn. Everyone pitches in with a dish. My father-in-law, a retired pastry chef, always prepares a number of awesome pies: key lime, pecan, pumpkin, and my new favorite – pecan/pumpkin. Of course, he brings fresh whipped cream in the special baker’s cloth dispenser with the fancy tips, and we all take turns putting some in our coffee after he tops the pies. Other dishes include Homestead Organic Farms’ new green bean harvest simply-prepared with a bit of oil or butter and some herbs. The inevitable sweet potatoes show up in various guises, and I always make an awesome tart cranberry/carambola/orange sauce, or some variation thereof, depending on what fruit we happen to have around. We always try to have a smoked turkey, and this year, Robert from Possum Trot  is joining our group for the first time, and smoking one of our grass-fed organic turkeys (unfortunately, not local).

Today it rained all day – over 4″ of rain – and the crew spent most of the day cleaning up the barn and organizing thing so everything is clean and sparkly for Thanksgiving dinner. Tomorrow I will be roasting the other turkey, preparing the cranberry sauce and the stuffing (a seat-of-the-pants creation which always involves bread or cornbread, nuts, celery, and fresh cranberries, among other things). We’ll probably serve some of our own antidesma wine along with the organic Bonterra wines Marian will be bringing.

It promises to be a great evening, as always, and we will express our gratitude for the wonderful bounty our planet provides in return for simple caring. Happy Thanksgiving!

A Crazy week…

Wow! Is Mercury in retrograde or something?

This past week has been intense, to put it mildly. We expected a certain amount of stress and pressure, given that it was both the start of the CSA season and RAMBLE (oh, yes, and that beef thing, too…), but we sure didn’t expect all the extra grief!

First, the reefer/delivery truck. It’s had a major overhaul, nearly complete, these past few weeks. It got a new transmission, work on the frame, the box & insulation had repairs, it got new springs (triple-reinforced), even a new cab with a radio, a working glove box, and a whole lot of little things, too. Still pending was a new head. So, back comes the truck from its makeover at Victor’s spa for old trucks, and off he goes on Wednesday to pick up the first load of CSA goodies from one of the farms. He made it there just fine, loaded up, and started back- got on US 27, and blew a water line in the middle of nowhere. So he pulled off the road and went to get water from a nearby canal, only to get shot at! (No, he wasn’t hit, and neither was the truck- but what was that all about??) Well, Victor Sr. got the truck fixed, and returned late that night. All was well-so we thought.

Early the next morning, we went to Florida City and picked up a couple of pallets of wax boxes and some cases of plastic clamshells for Worden Farm in Punta Gorda, where Victor was going later in the morning to pick up more CSA veggies. No incident – everything looked good. So off he went, destination West Coast (of Florida, silly!). Heading north on US 27, about 20 miles out of Miami, he hears this horrendous cracking noise, figures he’s got a blowout, and immediately pulls off the road. Looks at all the tires-nothing. Looks at the muffler-nothing. Mystified, he pops the hood (more precisely, on this truck you pop the cab), and sees that the plastic radiator fan blades have disintegrated. Can’t continue without a repair, so he tries to head back to Hialeah and the shop. Of course, without the fan, he can’t even go one mile without dangerously overheating, so he has to get someone to shuttle him back to town, to pick up the needed parts and return to fix it. Meanwhile, we prepare Plan B in case we need it- take my pickup truck to Punta Gorda and come back with a borrowed trailer from Worden Farm. OK, that will work, but it means we have to take the RAMBLE plants to Fairchild early, in case we need to send off the pickup truck. Luckily, the parts were available. It’s a darn good thing Victor is also a truck mechanic!

Meantime, back on the farm, while all this is going down, I am summarily informed by our Spanish WWOOFer couple that they could not sleep with the noise from the truck and I needed to park the truck elsewhere. I said no, and explained they needed to get used to the noise, because it would be running 3 nights a week. They got offended and decided they had had enough of farm life and would leave that day with no advance notice. I expressed my dismay and disappointment at the disregard for responsiblity shown by a spur-of-the-moment decision that would affect farm operations on the first heavy workload of the season, and asked them to stay at least through the weekend. But no, it was too much inconvenience for them. So, good riddance, and off to the next problem… but now my remaining loyal hardworking work crew would have to double up on RAMBLE duty, with no time off whatsoever during the weekend. Stress, did you say? Read more

Blast from the Past

A group portrait of some of the wwoofers, interns, volunteers, farm workers and Margie in the barn after packing the CSA shares last season.

group portrait2

Recycle and Reuse

A few years ago the local Boy Scouts built seedling benches for the farm using shipping pallets and wooden posts that where used to deliver the metal barn roof panels. Since then they have been patched a few times, but this year we decided they are too rotten to be useful. Coincidentally, we collected a huge stack of pallets throughout the summer from all the Avocado packing sessions. I have to hand it to Jade and Mike for all the sweat they put into the 10 sturdy benches lined up outside right now!




Blast from the Past

Steffi, a wwoofer from Germany, working the Gardner’s farmers market last season. Jon, a farm apprentice, can be seen in the background.steph at the booth2

It all Starts Here

Seeded flats

Seeded flats

Nothing is more exciting than watching new life take form. This is particularly true of vegetable seedlings. You know what those babies are going to grow up to be, and you eagerly anticipate your first sight of the green plant poking its leaves out of the ground.

A few days later...

Just a few days later...

There are many crops that we seed directly into the rows, but some we start ahead of time, in pots. We do this for several reasons – to get a head start before conditions are right in the field; to get sturdier, stronger plants by manipulating them in some way (like setting tomato plants deeper when transplanting); to sell.
Our tiny shade house gets full pretty fast, and the baby plants quickly get set out on the open benches to harden up and grow until they’re ready for transplanting.
This season Muriel introduced a starting technique that she learned during her summer stay in upstate New York. Here’s a couple of pictures of the group seedbeds, prepared and just after germinating.

First WWOOFers of the season

Jade and Mike cutting bananas for the dehydrator.

Jade and Mike cutting bananas for the dehydrator.

Jade and Mike arrived a couple of days ago from Kentucky/Indianapolis.  The morning of their first day, after a tour of the farm, we got ready to fill up the dehydrator.  First we picked all of the ripe Muntingia, also known as Cotton Candy fruit because they taste just like it.  Then we sat down to cut all the ripe fruit in the barn, which consisted of Carambolas, Bananas as well as Longans and arranged them on dehydrator trays.  Longans take an extra amount of patience.  First you have to peel off the out shell; then you rinse the “eyeball”; last, cut around the seed very carefully because they are super slippery and you end up with 2 little cup-shaped pieces of Longan flesh.  They are AMAZING dried!  In fact, I heard they are an aphrodisiac in Indonesia (or was it Thailand?).

Top to bottom: Carambolas, Longans, Bananas and Muntingia in the dehydrator.

Top to bottom: Carambolas, Longans, Bananas and Muntingia in the dehydrator.

A new season begins

Returning Farm Intern Muriel arrived two weeks ago (already?!) , along with increased responsibilities and a great attitude! She immediately got to work cleaning up the summer’s accumulation of spiderwebs, dust and debris in the barn, taking inventory of planting supplies, starting germination tests for our heirloom tomato seeds, posting CSA enrollments,  and a host of other startup chores.

In the meantime, I, Farmer Margie, was waiting to till under the cover crop… and waiting…and waiting…and waiting… Why? It was raining every single day, and not just a little. The soil has been soggy for weeks. You can’t work the soil when it’s so wet – you’ll destroy its tilth, and that’s something you want to avoid – even if it set you back a few weeks.

So what the heck is ’tilth’ anyway? Read more


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July 2022

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