Friday, December 31, 2010

My End of Year 2010 Farm-to-Table Summation, Updated 2016

The end of the year cannot come and go without mentioning some stand out companies and institutions I came across in my travels through the southeastern United States. The ones that come most affectionately to mind are a restaurant, a college, a community garden, several farms, and a few wineries.

The Floataway CafĂ© in Atlanta, Georgia is a remarkable restaurant that started farm-to-table practices years before it was trendy. They opened their doors over 12 years ago (with the help of Star Provisions), in the industrial district of Emory Hills. They get much of their ingredients from Summerland Organic Farm. And according to their current Chef de Cuisine Drew Belline the restaurant’s menu consists of about 75 percent local ingredients.

Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina changed its campus to an arboretum almost a hundred years ago. Five years ago Dee Phillips, Director of Dining Services, and Chef Craig Mombert started recycling their cooking oil. Phillips and Mombert continued their sustainability practices with the support of college President Tom Ross. Today Davidson has a campus wide sustainability project. They make their own mulch by combining kitchen waste (including meat) with used office paper and yard waste in a large composting machine. It takes three weeks to heat, combine and cure.

Phillips is so passionate about sustainability she has worked tirelessly to make sure the college dining services buys as much local as possible and sets up contracts with companies that abide by the three tenets of sustainability: social, community, and environmental. Mombert does his part by making most Vail Commons’ dishes from scratch (many with local ingredients) and grows much of his own ingredients in a kitchen garden during the warmer months.

Community Garden
Nearby the college was the Davidson Community Garden that started with the help of volunteers from the Davidson United Methodist church. Equipment was donated by local businesses, and seedlings were donated by the Huntersville Correctional Facility. They grew squash, corn, herbs, sunflowers, potatoes, zucchini and several other vegetables all with organic methods in raised beds. What produce the pests didn’t eat was given to the Ada Jenkins food bank.

The Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard (in Hendersonville) just south of Ashville, N.C. where I picked a bushel of honey crisp apples expecting to give some of them back to the farmer but getting my first lesson in food safety. He said I had to pay for and take every apple I picked.

The Elma P. Lomax Incubator Farm program in Davidson, N.C. teaches individuals, with no previous farming experience how to become certified organic farmers.

The conventional blueberry farm just west of Charleston, S.C. that had high bush blueberries filled with berries because it had been too hot to pick. The day we went the heat index got up to 103 but that did not stop me from picking at least two buckets of ripe berries.  I went through three liters of water in two hours to keep hydrated.

Worden Farm in Punta Gorda, Florida is an organic Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm owned by Chris and Eva Worden. They won the Small Farms Conference Innovative Farmer ‘s Award this year. And after visiting their farm I understood why. The Wordens are passionate about educating people on how to eat seasonally.

Charleston Tea Plantation on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina, is the only tea plantation on the continental United States. It grows tea using organic methods and hand weeding. I bought a first flush tea for only $15 a tin, a bargain by first flush standards.

Osceola Organic Farm in Vero Beach, Florida is redefining what it means to supply local produce. Owner Kevin O’Dare grows on demand vegetables and edible flowers for his many chef clients and CSA members.

Bluefield Organic Farm in Okeechobee, Florida that’s working with the University of Arkansas to grow thorn less blackberry bushes.

Lake James Cellars in Glenn Alpine, North Carolina has many varieties of wine. I tried practically everything on the list from chardonnay to cabernet sauvignon. The owner said she wished more North Carolina wines were featured on North Carolina restaurant wine lists.

Butterducks Winery tasting room is located deep inside Lane Southern Orchards (peaches, pecans, Indian River citrus) main retail shop in central Georgia. The wines were surprisingly good. I bought two bottles.

Henscratch Farms Vineyard and Winery in Lake Wales, Florida makes muscadine wines and has a u-pick-it grape farm. There are a lot of free ranging chickens at the winery that wander the grounds and hide under the wine tasting building. They rush anyone who drops a crumb onto the ground.

Rosa Fiorelli Winery and Vineyard in Bradenton, Florida, has several non-muscadine grape vines on its property developed and supplied by University of Florida. It also has several varieties of muscadine grapes developed and supplied by A and M University. It is a tasty place to visit.

I look forward to meeting and writing about many more interesting places and people in 2011.

Updated July 2016

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

New Food and Beverage Products for 2011 at 14th Americas Food and Beverage Show, Miami Beach, Fla.

Think wine, water, and energy drinks don’t mix then you should have been at the 14th Americas Food and Beverage show—organized by the World Trade Center Miami--held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, Florida. Food has become the “hot” category in our depressed economy as witnessed by the 10 percent increase in attendance this year. There were many new products from new companies.
Over 7000 people in the hospitality food and beverage industry, from the Americas and around the world, came together for two days of workshops, business deals, and exposition displays. I was lucky enough to attend. Here are some of the companies of interest to me.


Native Vines Winery, a North Carolina based company showcased several award winning wines at the convention. Started in 1998 by Darlene Gabbard and her husband Nick, it is the first Native American owned winery in the United States. I particularly liked the sauvignon blanc wine.

Bellaforma Caribbean Wine, a Trinidad and Tobago based company, served three types of wine: passion fruit, pineapple, and red papaya. There was supposed to be a fourth—sorrel--but it got held up in customs. Bellaforma attended the Americas Convention for market research on the American pallet. The winery, started in 1991, was Laurence Saunders dream--be the first company in Trinidad and Tobago making wine exclusively from tropical fruit. The company is now run by his daughter Celise Bell. Pineapple was the show favorite. I preferred the passion fruit because the ripe fruit nose carried on all the way through to the last drop.


Aruba Crystal Drinking water--reverse osmosis (RO) desalinated saltwater--started back in 2001 when owner Marlon Martinez noticed the water of his home country of Aruba helped his wife with her morning sickness. Three years later the company was formed. This water has a pH at 9.2 (alkaline), because part of the filtration process involves coral. It was enjoyable to drink with little to no aftertaste.

Aquamare Purified Water, a Brazilian based company, claims their reverse osmosis desalinated seawater is the only one in the world to have a carbonated version as well as a flat. The saltwater is sourced by boat, one hour off the Brazilian coast and 35 meters deep. Ten years in the making including eight years research and development Aquamare says their water has 63 minerals and a pH of 7.3.

Once a year the people of Newfoundland, Canada are allowed to harvest ice from icebergs that drift into their harbors. Berg Water is one company profiting from this practice. They claim their water is made from a 25,000 year old iceberg. It tasted clean without any aftertaste.

Energy Drinks

Chillo Energy Drink—made by Chill Drinks an Austrian based company--is bright orange in color. Made with Swiss grown hemp, caffeine, and sugar it is a fairly new product in the United States. It was the most pleasant energy drink I tasted although it did not give me as much energy as I expected.

RAAW, is an aseptic processed (cool pasteurized) fruits and vegetables blended juice. Not really an energy drink but it does have a lot of nutrients according to Paul Gregg, Executive Vice President of Raw Foods International (RFI) the manufacturer of RAAW. The juice contains only non-GMO produce. It was developed in 2008 by Jamaican restaurant owners from the Brickell Avenue area of Miami. Their best seller is cucumber pineapple juice because it is, “refreshing,” according to Gregg. I agree. Two new flavors are expected in January: lemongrass and wheatgrass.

Most of the companies I talked to at the 14th Americas Food and Beverage Show said they hope to be available in the United States market early 2011.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival:Sucess or Not?

From a culinary night's out viewpoint it was a success.
Many restaurants, many wine merchants, many clubs, much free food in delicious combinations. There was even a Top Chef themed event between two Palm Beach County chefs and one Miami chef, with MC WPTV Anchorman Jay Cashmere.

From a locavore perspective it was not a complete success.
Even there were a lot of restaurants sourcing fruits and vegetables locally; they were the same ones as last year. And their source companies were the same as last year (Swank Specialty Produce and Farmhouse Tomatoes) without change. With the few exceptions of Echo and Top of the Point who got their produce from the Breakers Resort internal greenmarket.

The same restaurants that were not sourcing local last year continued this year giving the same excuses that it was either too expensive or they were too small to interest a farm.  

And even though there were many wine vendors including a new brand of organic wine called CalNatural in Tetra Pak packaging. There was still a sorry lack of Florida wine representation...actually there was none. I talked to several restaurants about this problem and they said they were not aware Florida had wineries.

Maybe next year the Palm Beach Food and Wine Festival can be both a culinary success and a locavore including Florida Wines.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Brownies the Vegan Vegetarian Way at 4th Generation Organic Market, Boca Raton, Florida

My Holy Grail dessert is the humble chocolate brownie...humbly containing heart stopping levels of butter, eggs and milk. Its rich, creamy chocolateness calls to me at every holiday party. I resist because I am lactose intolerant and the after effects can be gut wrenching...literally. But eventually I give in, starting with a lick, then a bite, then a slice large enough to wear as a shoe. I pay the price but I pay it willingly because who can beat the flavor of a brownie.

But this year I have found a bakery/deli/grocery store that makes vegan vegetarian brownies meaning there is no milk in them. There are also no eggs, butter, or gluten flours in them. The place is 4th Generation Organic Market in Boca Raton, Florida.

With their slightly cracked tops, moist interior and melt in the mouth flavors, I could quickly drop into a chocolate coma and not care if I left the store one dress size larger.

Oh, they do have other desserts there like organic coconut cake which is equally delicious in its own category. But when life gets me down I turn to anything chocolate and now I have a delicious source of dairy-free brownies! Thank-you 4th Generation.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

How Organic is the Produce at Farmers Markets?

If you are looking for certified organic produce it’s not easy. The term organic has become so synonymous with higher nutrition and higher prices that it has brought out the worst of sellers—greed.

There is a difference between certified organic produce and produce grown using organic methods. Certified organic is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and organic methods are not. Produce grown with organic growing methods is still a good choice but it should be labeled as such.

And while farmers markets are a great source of local and organic fruits and vegetables, the two terms are not necessarily interchangeable. Just because an apple is certified organic it does not mean it is local to the area.

It can be hard and confusing deciding where to buy. There could be dozens of colorful booths with fresh fruits and vegetables to choose from. Some will have banners upfront saying where they are from and some will not. Few will have their credentials displayed.

So, how do you know who you are buying from? Ask.

Once you have figured out who you are talking to, say a farmer advertising organic produce, then ask “Who is your certifier?” This is an important question and their reaction will determine if you stay or move onto the next stall.

If they are legitimate, they will immediately tell you and you can do business with them. If they act confused, then it is time to move on.

Buying organic produce from a farmers market does not guarantee you are buying certified organic produce. So ask a lot of questions. Don’t be afraid to go to as many stalls as you need until you are satisfied with the answer to the question of who their certifier is.

For more information certified organic go to

Saturday, November 6, 2010

PMA's Fresh Summit question continues

I found a partial answer to my question "Why is there a disconnect between Florida Farmers and Florida Consumers," at the 2010 Fresh Summit. But it was more complicated than I anticipated, involving four if not five reasons.  I will be writing further on this with references to a workshop I attended (at Fresh Summit)called "Keeping it Local: The Pros and Cons of Local Sourcing."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Florida Wine, Tasting event at Seminole Inn in Indiantown, Florida

In April, Seminole Inn decided to start a wine tasting series called a "Year of Wines," featuring Florida Wines. 

Tastings are on the first Saturday of the month, at 6 pm, and feature one winery at a time. After the tasting their is an optional dinner, at an additional fee, showcasing the wines in a gourmet meal. 

This month the featured wine was from Eden Winery and Vineyard in Alva, Florida. The wines sampled were Lake Emerald (white, light oak), Alva Rouge (red, medium dry), Alva White (white, slightly sweet), Coral Bell (blush with sweet nose and slightly sweet taste), Eden Stars (white, made with star fruit, least popular of the night), and Eden Spice (Red with sweet, tropical fruit punch like taste).

The Alva White was combined with orange zest to make a very delightful vinaigrette to top the spring mix salad (with cherry tomatoes and blue cheese chunks).

The Alva Rouge and Eden Stars were used in the main course as a reduction poured over a grilled chicken breast and pan seared salmon fillet.  These were less successful at impressing the pallet and their unique flavor got lost in the Au gratin potatoes and asparagus sides.

The Eden Stars made another appearance in the dessert course again as a reduction but this time combined with honey.  A small apple pie tartlet accompanied, topped with a tiny scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Call for pricing and reservations at 772-597-3777 or email

@)!% Update the Eden Winery is now closed and the Seminole Inn no longer has this style of wine tasting dinners.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wineries in Florida--a beginning list, Updated 2018

In my search for Florida wines I have gone as far south on the East coast to Redland for Schnebly's Tropical Fruit wines, and as far north as St. Augustine for San Sebastian wines (some muscadine and some mixed with other grape juices).

In the interior of Florida I have been to: Lakeridge Winery & Vineyard in Clermont (muscadine wines), as well as Henscratch Farms Vineyard & Winery in Lake Placid (muscadine wine and one mixed with Cabernet).

I look forward to the day when I can find these wines in local Florida restaurants instead of just at the wineries.

Links to the wineries:

2018 Update:
Schnebly's, Lakeridge and San Sebastian wines can be bought at Total Wines and More.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

2010 Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference

In its second year, The Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference in Kissimmee, Florida was a huge success with 800 attendees from all over Florida and surrounding States.
I met with one acre farmers/gardeners to 14,000 acre farms (R.C. Hatton in Pahokee).  I was not able to get to all the workshops but the ones I did attend were: Farm-to-School, Hydroponics and aquaculture, Marketing of products, Agri-Tourism, and Composting.

I learned about urban farming from a presentation put on by Will Allen, the keynote speaker of the conference and realized there is much potential for this type of farming in other parts of the country.

What I took away from the conference was: Palm Beach County was the first country in Florida to start the Farm-To-School system; Aquaponic (combining hydroponics and aquaculture) farms can raise fish that are for more than just food; Agri-tourism has the potential to rise in this state (fishing at aquaponics farms); There are several ways to compost and create good mulch; Organic farming is on the rise; Urban farming can become a reality in any area (G.R.O.W. project in abandoned railway yards).

In the next few months I plan to visit and write articles about the many of the farmers I met at the conference.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Creating New Market Opportunities With High Tunnel Greenhouses workshop by U of F IFAS extension

Dear Growers and IFAS Professors,
Thanks for allowing me to attend your very informative workshop day. I learned a lot about high tunnel greenhouses and their applications in Florida, specifically at  Farmville Organics in Ft. Pierce.  I never knew the market was first developed in Europe and that we here in the States are so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to using of this technology. But we are learning and changing for the better it seems, at least by the number of people that attended yesterday.

The tunnels help reduce water  (acre-inch) use in frost prevention techniques to nothing, at least according to a 2007 to 2009 study, by Dr. Bielinski Santos, Asst. Professor of Horticulture, Gulf Cast Research and Educational Center, Balm, Florida. Dr. Santos said, even with just a roof over the plants the ambient air temperature in the tunnels increased in winter to keep strawberries in Plant City, FL warm during a frost event in the winter of 2009 (outside 27 degrees, inside 43 degrees). Tunnels also help with crop diversification, early production edge, reduction of foliar & fruit disease, according to Dr. Santos.

This technology, when perfected for Florida (excessive heat in the tunnels in summer is a problem), could allow the growing season to go longer than the typical one from September to May, helping the State to become more competitive with other markets.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Useful Conventional and Organic Farm related sites, Updated

Here are some sites you might like to check out for more information on Farms both conventional and organic:
Organic Certifying Agent

My South Florida Small Farms List as of August 2010, Updated 2014

My knowledge of South Florida farms is ever growing.
Here's my list:
1.  Bluefield Certified Organic Farm, Okeechobee (Certified Organic) *NOW CLOSED*
2.  Worden Farm, Punta Gorda, (Certified Organic, CSA, farmers markets sales, sells vegetables, berries and edible flowers)
3.  Dakin Dairy Farms, Myakka City, Manatee County (Grass-Fed Dairy farm, sustainable agriculture practices, sells pasteurized milk and cream)
4.  Sea Breeze Organic Farm, Ft. Pierce (Certified Organic, no website, sells at farmers markets, 772-489-7905)
5.  D&D Farms, Palm City (Conventional, CSA, u-pick-it, sells at farmers markets) *NOW CLOSED*
6.  Verticle Horizon, Hobe Sound (Hydroponic, sells at Ft. Pierce & Stuart farmers market, sells vegetables and berries)*
7.  Erickson Farm Inc, Canal Point (Conventional, organic growing practices, CSA, sells mangoes and tropical fruit)*
8.  Swank Specialty Produce, Loxahatchee (Hydroponic, Organic growing practices, CSA, sells fruit, vegetables, edible flowers, preserves)*
9.  Kenari Groves General, Inc, Loxahatchee (Merchant Circle website; Conventional Farm, no pesticides, sells tropical fruit)
10.  Farmhouse Tomatoes, Inc, Lake Worth (Greenhouse, sells at West Palm Beach & Palm Beach Gardens Green Market, sells heirloom tomatoes)*
11.  Bedner's Farm Fresh Market, Boynton Beach (Conventional, organic growing practices, on-site sales of veg, fruit, Florida meat...etc.)*
12.  Green Cay Produce, Boynton Beach (Conventional, sustainable agriculture practices, CSA, sells berries and vegetables)
13.  Pero Family Farms, Boynton Beach (Conventional, sustainable agriculture practices, sells bell peppers to Publix and other grocery stores)*
14.  Capella Triple C. Groves, Delray Beach (Hydroponic, organic growing practices, u-pick-it, on-site store) *NOW CLOSED*
15.  The Girls Strawberry U-Pick-It, Delray Beach (Hydroponic, u-pick-it, on-site store, sells berries, tropical fruit and vegetables)*
16. Kai Kai Farm, Indiantown (Organic growing practices, CSA, West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Garden green market sales, sells vegetables, berries, herbs, and mushrooms).*

Central Florida Farm selection
1.   Uncle Matt's, Clermont (Certified Organic orange juice, sells to most groceries)

*Updated July 2014

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Green Travel 2010 part two

Sought out a peach grove in steamy Barney, Georgia located west of I-75 and just north of Valdosta.  We got a coupon at the Georgia tourist information stop, for half-off peach icecream.  We drove 9 miles inland from the highway to get to Barney and then found the town was packed with peach groves.  The heat index was 110 F, when we got out of our car and walked the short distance to the peach stand.  There was a u-pick-it sign out front and we asked where the groves were.  "Over, that there hill but what are you driving?"
We pointed to our car.  The attenedent then said, "Oh, no you can't go back there because we got a heavy rain yesterday and its all mud back there.  We don't want you to get stuck.  We're only allowing people with trucks back there today."
So we bought some pre-picked peaches and ice cream.  They had two flavors: peach (from their orchard) and blueberry (from a grove on the east side of Valdosta).  We got one of each and found the Blueberry had a stronger flavor than the peach.
While looking at the pre-picked selection of peaches, I noticed a Mocking bird flying in and out of a potted plant (I also heard a lot of cheeping sounds everytime the bird flew into the plant).  I asked what was going on and was told, "Oh she has a nest in there with chicks so large it's amazing they don't fall out. We tried to stop her from nesting there.  We even took away her first nest but the very next day she had another built in its place." 

I went up to the nest and sure enough there were four large chicks nestled in amongst the flower blossoms.  I wanted a photo and as I started clicking, the counter attenedant said, "You'd be amazed how many people have taken those birds photo.  We had one person that got a picture with all thier mouths open.  They looked like flowers.  The person said they were going to email the picture tous when they got home."

We asked about the green plums that were for sale.  The attendent said people liked to eat them with salt. Before we left the stand we bought a selection of jams and jellies made at the orchard. Then it was back to I-75 for us.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Green Travel 2010 part One

Just spent one night at a Holiday Inn Express in Silver Springs, Florida.  They professed to be a Green hotel recycling all their paper and plastic yet they only had recycle bins out front and none in the breakfast room where most of the trash was created.  They said they did not think to put bins in there but would change that detail in the future.

They reused their paper at the front desk but it was stock paper with no post cunsumer products in it (recycled).

They did have energy efficient fridges and microwaves in the rooms along with efficient air-conditioners.
But they used VOC paint in their stairwells.

They were open to suggestions and look to becoming Greener in the future.
If you want more information about them go to

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summertime in South Florida

The hurricane season has started in South Florida and the growing season has ended.  So it's back to trucked in fresh produce from other states.  There are a few bright local produce lights on the distant horizon.  Lychee season starts at the end of June and Mango season at the end of July.  Apart from those the only other local Sth Florida items during the summer are wine from Schnebly's in Redlands; rice from Sem-Chi in Belle Glade; and tomatoes from Farmhouse Tomataoes in Lake Worth.
Please suggest any other 100% South Florida summer grown/created items.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

2010 Florida Green, Energy & Climate Conference Report Card

I attended the 2010 Florida Green, Energy and Climate Conference held at the South Florida Convention Center in West Palm Beach from May 24th to 25th.

I attended the general meetings, that came with meals, held in the Grand Ballroom: Green is Not an Option Anymore; Does Green Save You Green?; Florida's Future Job Market; Getting The $ For Green; 100 Cities (only 54 attended) Summit Outcome Presentation (attended by a handful of people).

There were so many break-out sessions crammed into the two day event that I could not get to them all, but the ones I did attend impressed me: Government and Institutional Planning; Metrics of Building Green and Renovation; How to Market Your Business As Green; Local Climate and Heat Island Effects in Cities.

By the end of the conference I felt empowered to do good things for the world and educate anyone who would listen to me.  However I was left with a sense of loss because there were more industry professionals than general public participants at the conference.  There was also a disconnect between the message and the venue.

I observed banquet servers putting soiled paper plates and plastic cutlery directly into the garbage bins instead of seperating out the recyclable items into the specially marked recycle bins, dotted about the Grand Ballroom.   I also noticed that those same recycle bins were hard to find near the break-out session rooms.

With all the talk about reducing our Carbon Footprint it was surprising how much disregard there was in respect to the produce used for the convention's meals.  As far as I am aware blackberries are not commercially in season as yet in the Continental United States, meaning they travelled a long distance to get to the Convention Center's breakfast buffet table.

Overall the convention was a success but I would encourage next year's organizers to the address the venue issues to make sure their message lines up with the public one.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Small Local Produce Farms vs. Organic Farms in South Florida

Which do you support?
It is a pretty hard life as a farmer whether its producing conventional or organic crop.  And while it is better to consume organic produce over conventional, it can be a challenge to buy locally grown certified organic produce in south Florida, as there are many more conventional farms here than organic.  Most certified organic produce comes from outside the state of Florida.

Of the conventional farms in South Florida, the smaller they are the better when it comes to using organic growing methods on their property.  They vary in size from one acre hydroponic operations to 200 acre soil based farms.  Many are CSAs--Community Supported Agriculture (Co-Ops)--that cater to both the individual consumer and restaurants.  The small based farmer is open to more suggestions on improving thier produce to please their customers than thier larger commercial based farms and so supporting them is the first step towards supporting future organic farms.

In South Florida some conventional small farms to check out are: Farris Farm (hydroponic) in Palm Beach Gardens; The Girls (hydroponic) in Delray; Swank Specialty Produce (hydroponic, CSA) in Loxahatchee; Green Cay Farm (CSA) in Boynton Beach; D&D Farms (CSA) in Palm City; Erickson Farm in Canal Point; Bedner's Farm in Boynton Beach; and Varri Green Farm in Port St. Lucie.

Some organic farms: Paradise Farm in Redlands; Sea Breeze Farm in Ft. Pierce; Lady Moon Farms in Punta Gorda; Somerset Farm in Naples.