Hello Friends and Happy Wednesday! This week we are bringing you a post that’s a little different than our normal recipe post, but I think you’ll still enjoy. 😉 Ease and Carrots recently did a tour of some of our local farms here in Jacksonville on the Slow Food First Coast Tour de Farm and we just had such a great time that we wanted to share our adventure!
Slow Food First Coast is a local organization in Jacksonville that focuses on bringing people closer to what they eat by raising public awareness, improving access to food, providing educational opportunities, and advocating for farms and farmers. Every year they host an event called Tour de Farm where more than 25 local farms open up their doors and allow the public to take tours, learn more about where their food is coming from, meet local farmers, vendors and more. It’s a great educational family-friendly event, and we had been looking forward to it since they announced the dates for this year.
November 15th marked the date for the fourth annual Tour de Farm, but the first annual visit for Ease and Carrots! It was a beautiful day which made the tour that much more enjoyable. We had a great time learning about the local growers in Jacksonville, and have already begun mapping out our plans for next year. Join us for a trip down memory lane:
After packing up the car with water bottles, sunscreen, granola bars, and of course, the camera, we were ready to go! Our first stop took us out to Ponte Vedra Beach, where we visited GyoGreens. GyoGreens (pronounced guy-o) is a small farm focusing on growing microgreens in an aquaponics based environment. And guess what? Aquaponics means fish! This operation was so cool. The waste from the fish tank (containing tilapia and koi fish) is fed into the hydroponic system, which feeds the plants. The plants naturally filter the water, and then the clean water is returned to the fish. A perfect ecosystem!
While here, we couldn’t help but try some delicious juice from Watts Juicery and purchase some local honey from Buzz Dozier & Sons. Mmm mmm!
Our next stop was BEAM Grace Garden in Jacksonville Beach. BEAM, short for Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry, helps local families in need with their food pantry operation. To supplement the food pantry with fresh fruits and vegetables, BEAM started Grace Garden. Grace Garden is a 6,000 square foot garden with raised beds, growing everything from green beans to raspberries.
The most fantastic thing about this garden was the amount of natural insect wildlife. The bumblebees, butterflies and other insects were everywhere – check out the size of that bumblebee!
Driving up just a little more north we reached Palmetto Organics in Atlantic Beach. Palmetto Organics is a small, organic farming operation that works closely with a local charter elementary school. The kids spend a lot of time learning outdoors, including getting their hands dirty on the farm. Countless studies have shown that if kids participate in the growing, selection, or preparation of the food, they will be much more likely to consume it- bet these kids are healthy eaters!
Speaking of cool insects again, I’m pretty sure these ants were battling on top of this popcorn plant and the others were taking over the eggplant crops. Also, check out those perfect looking garlic bulbs…is anyone randomly craving pizza now??
So now we head over a little ways north west to Berry Good Farms. As part of the North Florida School of Special Education, Berry Good Farms is used as a tool to teach the students about horticulture, as well as a bit about business. In addition to doing the labor that the farm requires, the students also participate in the sale of the produce to the public and local restaurants and catering operations, with the ultimate goal of teaching them to be productive citizens.
After touring the grounds, we couldn’t help but drool over the delicious breads and sweets from Community Loaves. We just had to treat ourselves to some of these goodies and lets just say that the dark chocolate brownie was daaaaa bomb.
The next stop was White Harvest Farms, which is just outside of downtown Jacksonville. White Harvest Farms is part of the Clara White Mission, a local nonprofit organization that provides social services to those in need in the community. This 14 acre farm is in the middle of a food desert, so it is a valuable asset to the neighborhood, allowing opportunities for purchase of nutritious, fresh food!
The weather here in Florida can be very unpredictable sometimes which can make it really hard for farmers, and unfortunately in Jacksonville we had a ton of rain and flooding the week before the tour. A lot of the crops not only here, but at the other farms as well had gotten washed out because of the flooding. Though there weren’t many crops to view, they sure did have their share of sugar cane!
We had the opportunity to try sugarcane for the first time and totally did not expect it to taste the way it did, but it was definitely sweet…who would have thought, right? 😉 And did you know that its not just tasty, but super easy to grow too!? For those of you out there that are looking for a crazy low maintenance plant, sugar cane might just be the one for you.
Our last and final stop was Congaree and Penn on the North side of Jacksonville. I’m pretty sure this was our first time to this part of town – Jacksonville’s a huge city, so we aren’t embarrassed to say so. It was kind of nice to see this rural area that was away from the city. Congaree and Penn had a surprise in store for us – we have locally grown rice in Jacksonville! The farm currently grows five varieties of rice that are sold mostly to local restaurants. Too bad they had sold out of their bagged rice for the day or we totally would have bought some to make with dinner that night. Although they primarily grow rice right now, future plans for the farm include a mayhaw (small fruit that resembles a crabapple) orchard and a cidery. Can’t wait to go back again!
Oh yeah, and we can’t forget to mention that we both got to try fresh oysters for the first time thanks to restaurant Orsay. I’m not sure if we really need to explain the next image or if it explains itself. 😉 Let’s just say…they aren’t our new favorite food.
We were able to jump onto the last hay ride of the evening just as the sun was setting, and it was quite a magnificent sunset at that.
What a great way to end a pretty fantastic day…
Til next time!
Kate & Lauren