Pam Huizenga Alexander is … well … where to begin? “I am a wife, mother, jewelry designer, lapidary, potter, farmer and home cook. I enjoy fishing (only for food), hiking and working with my hands.” She also is a visionary and a strong supporter of local farms.
Pam, who co-founded Colab Farms Indiantown and Colab Farms East (in Stuart), also has bought Ground Floor Farm in Stuart and is renovating it extensively. In fact, the other two farms are closed for major renovations as well.
She answered some questions for Florida Food & Farm’s Farmer Tastemaker feature.
Question: How long have you been in this business?
Answer: Just over one year, although a handful of our staff members have been farmers for several years.
Q: Tell us about your first experience on a farm.
A: Actually, I come from a family of farmers. On one side of my family, I have a grandfather who was a farmer, and relatives who worked for the Florida Department of Agriculture. As a child, I spent a lot of time in Central Florida visiting citrus and watermelon farms. I’ve wanted to grow vegetables my whole life, and was always creating little gardens wherever I lived.
Q: Do you have any advice for those looking to become a farmer?
A: Be passionate, and surround yourself with people who know more than you. Everyone you work with should bring something new to the table. Learn something every day!
Q: Do you focus your produce sales more on consumers or on restaurants?
A: Both. While our restaurant customers are very important to us, we love to show the local customer what we can grow. Our new market (opening in the fall) will allow us to showcase our own produce and items from other local producers. We are very excited about this!
Q: Tell us about some of the local restaurants and/or chefs you work with.
A: We are very fortunate to provide some of our favorite places with fresh produce — District Table, The Gafford, Ristorante Claretta, Gilbert’s Coffee Bar, Jupiter Island Club, Ellie’s Downtown Deli and more.
Q: What made you want to start farming?
A: The reason is multidimensional. We love providing our community with fresh, healthy, safe food; and we love incorporating and experimenting with proactive, regenerative farming practices. How can we increase the quality of our environment, our property, our community? These are the questions we ask. How can we bring produce to our local area efficiently, healthily and effectively?
Q: Who has helped you the most to get to the place you are now?
A: Wow, that could be a whole article on its own! The hard work of my parents made it all possible, but the mental, emotional and physical support of several others have brought us to this day. My husband is hugely supportive of all my endeavors as a cheerleader, creative mind and sounding board. Our kids offer excitement and plenty of taste-testers!
Allison Linn (co-founder of Colab Farms and manager of the Indiantown farm) has been involved since the very beginning, when I went from “organic garden” dreams to full-fledged “farmer” status. Without her hard work and passion for growing delicious produce, none of this would be here! Once the foundation was in place, we were able to attract some amazing people — Mike, Isabel, Matt, Alisia, Hanah, Josh, Nick and so many more. Our goal is to bring in the best people we can, and we have been very fortunate!
Q: Back to your farm: Why should we love the farm, and what are you doing there that’s truly unique to your business?
A: Why should you love my farm? Because it’s Our Farm — it’s a collaboration of ideas, dreams, passions and goals. We want to change how people eat in our town. We want to inspire other farms and collaborate to bring healthy, delicious produce to as many as possible. Although we are not labeled “organic” — and that word is going through some growing pains right now — our goal is to be “ProGanic”; in other words, proactive, regenerative, progressive. We will be sharing a lot more about that over the next few months, and it’s exciting.
Q: Is anything on your agenda that we should know about?
A: Growth — literally, figuratively, physically and mentally. It’s what we are about. We have some fun surprises planned for the end of the year, and we hope to always be growing!
Q: Shout-out: Is there someone you want to tell our readers about (for example, another farmer, small business, artisan, etc.)?
A: There are so many great groups out there: Blue Hill Farms, Women Who Farm, Gotham Greens, Shadowood Farms. Too many to mention. Go out and look for your local farmers, bakers, chefs etc.!
Q: Anything you’d like to add?
A: Always fight for your local farms — for the people who are trying to give you the best quality and the best of themselves.