In the feature photo, shoots of young roselle hibiscus grow through the black tarp at Colab Farms Indiantown. In the background is the 17,000-square-foot greenhouse, nearing completion. / Photos by J.D. Vivian
The City of Stuart has much going for it: for example, a historic and thriving downtown; museums; the historic Lyric Theatre, built in 1926 and completely renovated in 2014. The city also boasts an urban farm — such facilities are rapidly disappearing from the Florida landscape — Ground Floor Farm.
Though Ground Floor is closed for extensive renovations, it will soon return even bigger and better, says the new owner, Pamela Alexander: “Ground Floor is not going away. We expect to reopen under the name ‘Colab Kitchen’ in the fall. We’ll have an indoor market, restaurant, bar, a surprise eating element out back, and some urban-farm areas.” The farm is at 100 SE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Pam also co-founded and owns Colab Farms, which has two facilities in Martin County: Colab East, at 53 SW Linden St., Stuart; and Colab Farms Indiantown, at 12951 SW Paddock Drive. (She also is the subject of Florida Food & Farm’s August Farmer Tastemaker feature; click on floridafoodandfarm.com/featured/farmer-tastemaker-pamela-alexander-of-colab-farms.)
What’s in a name?
Once Ground Floor opens under the “Colab” name, the three facilities will each grow a variety of produce and will offer workshops, classes and other agriculture-related activities — “from growing to cooking and everywhere in between” Pam explains. What does “Colab” signify? “Collaboration — it takes a village, a common passion, and concern!”
(For a video showing Pam Alexander and the three former owners of Ground Floor Farm — Micah Hartman, Jackie Vitale and Mike Meier — visit http://www.groundfloorfarm.com/#farmcafemarket.)
When finished, the 17,000-square-foot greenhouse at the 5-acre Colab Farms Indiantown will grow root vegetables, such as celery and carrots, in troughs; vining-type plants, such as tomatoes and peppers, on benches with reels above; and vertical towers for growing aeroponically.
Aeroponics, a more efficient use of water than hydroponics, “refers to the roots of the plants being suspended in the air,” explains Allison Linn, Colab Farms Indiantown farm manager and co-founder of Colab Farms. “The water comes into the reservoir at the bottom. Then, every few minutes, the water is pumped up through the tower, and a mist is sprayed inside onto the roots of the plants.”
Bumblebees will pollinate
The insect screening on the new greenhouse is designed to keep out all types of flying or crawling creatures — except for one. “We’ll use bumblebees inside the greenhouse to pollinate the crops. We’ll have two beehives — one on each end.”
In addition, Colab Farms Indiantown has four hives near its outside garden area.
Mike Meier, one of the former owners of Ground Floor Farm, was interviewed in the commercial kitchen inside the caretaker’s house at Colab Farms Indiantown. He’s looking forward to what lies ahead. “Right now, not much is growing here. But we’re busy, getting everything in place for an exciting upcoming season.”
Once reopened, Colab East, Colab Farms Indiantown and Colab Kitchen will provide a variety of options, says Pam Alexander. “When people visit us, they’ll be able to see a variety of growing methods and produce being grown. They can buy our produce to take home, or they can enjoy it in our restaurant. We’ll also have an event element, where groups can have parties and enjoy our urban-farm atmosphere.”
For information on Ground Floor Farm and to subscribe to its free online newsletter for news and updates, visit www.groundfloorfarm.com.