Category: Farm

Cravings: Tomatoes from Walt’s Farmhouse Tomatoes

What are you craving this month? We’re craving a trip to the West Palm Beach Greenmarket, where we can visit Walt from Walt’s Heirlooms Farmhouse Tomatoes and pick up a basket of his juicy, farm-fresh tomatoes. Now, these aren’t just your ordinary tomatoes. They’re heirloom, hydroponic tomatoes from a 1-acre plot of land in Lake Worth, something that he’s been perfecting since he opened his company, Walt’s Heirloom Farmhouse Tomatoes, in 1996. Just take a slice of one of his juicy Beefsteak tomatoes, add some fresh basil and drizzle with your favorite balsamic and your palate will be dancing in delight. In addition to carrying four types of beefsteak tomatoes like Red Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Gold Medal and Kellogg’s Breakfast; he also grows a variety of cocktail and cherry tomato varieties including Green Zebra, Plum Lemon, Red Zebra and Black Cherry tomatoes. Now, how do you enjoy your tomatoes? For more information on Walt’s Heirloom Farmhouse Tomatoes, take a look at page eight of our fall issue or visit him online at...

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Florida’s Agriculture Heritage: Redlands Fruit & Spice Park

by Dan Millot In 1935, a Dade County park director, Doug Barnes, began circulating an idea among his colleagues that the county should create a park showing the public how to grow tropical plants. Barnes envisioned a park that would be a live teaching lab. Residents unfamiliar with the tropical bounty that Dade County could produce might be inspired to grow some of the plants themselves. It worked, and the Fruit & Spice Park, now an iconic site for plant lovers, is a thriving collection of plants that are used as teaching aids by botanists and growers alike. It is the only tropical botanical garden in the U.S. Trees bearing carambola (star fruit), lychees, avocados, 75 types of bananas, and 160 varieties of mangoes fruit each year. Nut and spice trees, tropical vegetables, and herbs also dot the paths. Surviving hard freezes and hurricanes, these subtropicals and exotics, planted years ago, still flourish after decades. War interrupts With World War II breaking out in the 1940s, Barnes’ idea lay dormant for a while as he and others were taken from their civilian jobs and began military service. But by 1944, the idea took root once more, and work began on what is now the Preston B. Bird and Mary Heinlein Fruit & Spice Park. Rosemary Eliker of Miami, now 87, was a youthful volunteer in the park’s infancy. Her...

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From International Banking to Henscratch: Alice Pena Now Raises Organic Layers

There are farmers who are born to the land, and those who grow food or raise livestock by default. Alice Pena, of PNS Farm in Miami, is the latter. “I was an international banker,” she said. “My father started the farm almost 50 years ago, and when he passed away 30 years ago, my mother took over.” It was established as a vegetable and tropical fruit farm, but on the side were about two dozen hens her mother kept as layers, giving eggs to family and friends. As her mother grew older, Pena gradually helped out more and more....

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Gene Joyner’s Unbelievable Acres a Study in Tropical Planting

Story and photos by Jan Norris It’s 45 years in the making – or growing, but Gene Joyner has created a tropical rainforest in what was once an empty cow pasture in West Palm Beach. It’s a labor of love. Joyner, the former 35-year director of horticulture at the Palm Beach County Extension office, and his volunteers have done it all, and mostly by hand. The botanical garden, 2.5 acres west of the Palm Beach International Airport, has been featured in more than 500 TV shows, and it’s rarely a week that goes by without Joyner giving an interview or answering questions as a horticulture expert. His legion of fans who’ve come to him for advice with chewed leaves, bugs in jars, fruit filled with holes, and dirt samples, have grown from South Florida groups to include a international web of tropical gardening enthusiasts. At 69, he shows no signs of slowing. “I plant something every week,” Joyner says. “I get donations from all over – someone’s always giving me some plants.” He conducts tours of the garden by request from plant clubs, growers or interested groups; master gardeners from the Mounts Botanical Gardens earn hours giving the monthly tours. Today, he’s giving me a private tour along the 1.5 miles of paths here. It’s actually a backyard Joyner lives at the front of the property. What began as...

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Lychees Incoming! Summer Brings on the Bounty from Groves and Backyard Trees

The lychee – sometimes spelled lychi or litchi – is a favorite tropical fruit native to China. Trees are heavy with them now. The trees are tall, and the crop comes in over only a couple of weeks. Native to southern China, they’re harvested on Florida fruit farms May through July. Typical size is 1 to 1-3/4 inches in diameter. This fruit is picked ready to eat. The thick red covering peels off by hand; the translucent pulp surrounds a large seed. It’s juicy and has a sweet flavor, faintly banana-like. Best eaten fresh, or may be refrigerated up to 7 days or frozen whole for later use. It’s a good source of vitamin C. Those diners from the 60s will remember a “Chinese lychee nut” dessert at Chinese restaurants from that era; the fruit was exotic and rare in those days. Florida grows most of the small crop harvested in the U.S. Rarely sold in stores, you can find these and other tropical fruits at Robert Is Here – a tropical fruit stand in Florida City that is featured in the Spring edition of Florida Food & Farm. They may even have lychee milkshakes this month – check them out, along with farms that specialize in tropical fruits. They’re in our directory of...

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Learn to Grow a Sustainable Garden at Class in Broward March 21

A joint program offered by the city of Oakland Park and the Urban Farming Institute, an organization that promotes urban and community gardens, is open to everyone. Learn how and what to plant in South Florida’s unique soils and climate, and within the confines of a back yard. Register by Wednesday, March 18. Visit for more...

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Foragers Emerge as Entrepreneurs Helping Small Farmers Connect to Chefs

  By Jan Norris The business of foraging – picking up fresh produce from local farms and delivering it directly to the chefs – is growing as fast as the farm-to-table movement. Rod Smith, co-owner of the foraging company Farms to Chefs in Boynton Beach, says this way of doing business is not really new at all – it’s how farmers and chefs have worked for centuries. “This is old-fashioned, the way we used to do it,” he said. “It’s an old business that’s been reborn – the way it should be.” A new demand for locally grown products has brought back the old model, however. Farms to Chefs is a company that delivers fresh produce and dairy items straight from local farmers to their clients – chefs at clubs, restaurants and institutions. Smith says his was the first company in the area that he knows of to help chefs and local farmers connect directly without a distributor or warehouse in between. Though the foraging business has grown, “there still are not that many of us,” he said. “I just got an email from someone in St. Petersburg wondering if we go over there.” A potential in connections It started back when Smith was a chef, looking around at all the agriculture in the region and wondering why his produce ordered from a distributor was coming from California or...

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