By Mikki Royce
Martina “Teena” Borek
20025 S.W. 270th St, Homestead
One of the grande dames of farming in Florida is Martina “Teena” Borek, who was left a single mom when her 24-year-old husband died in a car accident, leaving her with the responsibility of raising two young boys and running a vegetable farm.
It was the 1980s, and women weren’t common as farmers, but Borek got help from her male counterparts, and her farm was surviving. She began her own brand of produce, packing it in white boxes with one blue stamp – “Grown in USA” – and one red stamp – “Teena’s Pride.”
Then, in 1992, Hurricane Andrew, one of the most destructive storms in U.S. history, blew in and flattened almost everything in the Homestead area. But Borek was resilient and built up her farm once more, growing produce such as heirloom tomatoes, beans, and corn.
At one time, she was the only female row-crop farmer in the Miami-Dade County area. Then, in 2010, she turned to hydroponics as a way of conserving water, and that’s how she grows heirloom and baby heirloom tomatoes today.
She has earned a number of awards, including Agriculturist of the Year in Homestead in both 1985 and 2011. Borek was named 2004 Woman of the Year in Agriculture by the Florida Department of Agriculture; and Miami-Dade County and the cities of Homestead and Florida City have proclaimed “Teena Borek Day” in her honor.
Today, her two sons each have their own sustainable farm. Michael runs the business in Homestead on the Michael Borek Farm, and, since his mother’s retirement a year ago, he grows all Teena’s Pride products, bringing back the original label that fell by the wayside after the hurricane. Steven farms sustainably in Central Florida.
Borek talks about the days when farmers just had to farm, versus today, when farmers must spend time filling out government paperwork. Family farms have to file the same forms that large industrial farms do, only they don’t have the staff to do it, she said, and she’s glad it’s no longer her task.
Her passion now is educating consumers. In 2011, she began a CSA program, guided by Nancy Roe, another prominent farmer, in Boynton Beach. With the subscription program, fresh produce is delivered to communities in the area. She also started a nonprofit called Save American Family Farms From Extinction (SAFFE) to get children to farms. Her goal is to have two busloads of kids a day discover where food comes from and to learn how to eat healthy.
For the past five years, they have held an open house on the first Sunday of each month during farm season (November to April). She and Michael give tours of the farm and offer raw food samples.
Borek wants visitors to know what fresh, healthy food – straight from the land – tastes like. She says produce loses most of its nutrients after six days, so her advice to everyone is to “know your grower and go visit the farm your veggies come from.”
Even in Borek’s retirement, farming is not merely a job for Teena, it’s a way of life.
Editor’s note: This is a portion of the original story that appeared in Florida Food & Farm’s Spring 2016 issue. To read the entire article, visit the magazine online.