A few weeks ago my mother discovered a couple of fabulous picking farms located near her house. She called me immediately and said that I absolutely had to drive out to see her this weekend so we could take a trip to the picking farm. Of course I eagerly agreed! We spent all day picking our own produce and taking a guided tour around a local hydroponic farm. It was an amazing afternoon so I thought I’d share a few pictures.
First stop was a local picking farm called Hunsader Farm in Bradenton, Florida. They host a huge pumpkin festival throughout the month of October that attracts people from all over the state with live music, hay rides and of course produce pickin’! This weekened they had green beans, black-eye peas and zipper peas ripe and ready! We didn’t pick our own beans but we did swing into their produce stand and snatch up some goodies.
I filled up two huge bags with sweet potatoes, squash, beans, cabbage, melons, tomatoes and so much more. They also had a really cute “petting zoo” area set up for kids to feed some of the farm animals. It was super cute!
Everybody was very friendly and I got a nice lil lesson on zipper peas from one of the ladies in the market. I took home a bag-full and put them in some delicious veggie soup. An hour of shucking peas left me wondering how much it was really worth the effort, but the peas were super sweet and delicious!
Next stop was the hydroponic farm! A little info on hydroponic farming: Hydroponic farmers have completely eliminated the need for soil. The crops are grown in stacked “grow houses” using an advanced water filtration system and an all-natural peat and vermiculite substrate. This farm uses only natural mineral salt-based fertilizers and an all-natural pesticide composed of water, soap and cayenne pepper.
The produce is absolutely delicious and about as close to organic as you can get without calling it so. Technically, since they use minerals in the substrate they cannot label themselves organic. In order to be considered organic, plants cannot be nourished with mineral salts or any other refined substances, even though these are usually a higher purity than most organic fertilizers. Hydroponic crops are grown in very sterile environments and are not exposed to soil erosion or pollutants from run-off. The farmers use very precise methods to ensure optimal growth, extended growing seasons and maximum nutrition in their crops. They are also quite proud of their craft! We smiled sweetly and asked for a guided tour through the outdoor growing area. The friendly staff happily obliged.
My favorite part of the afternoon? When I heard what was ripe and ready to be picked–kale, collards, swiss chard and bib lettuce. I think I started drooling when he told me; and that turned a great trip into a freakin’ fabulous trip.
Group shot!Getting a little lesson on picking bib lettuce. Grab it around the roots and gently pull it free. Keeping the root attached allows the plant to stay alive and fresh when you take it home! =)
Visiting these local farms was such a wonderful experience and something I plan on doing more often, especially after learning how close they are. There is something amazingly refreshing about picking your own food before it goes on your plate. It’s a feeling of accomplishment and appreciation for all of the hard work that goes into farming. I believe it’s each of our duties to learn more about where our food comes from and do our best to keep things local. That’s what it’s all about folks–local, sustainable, organically-grown, and fresh!
Have you ever visited a picking farm or hydroponic farm?