Welcome to our Family Farm!
Sweet Roots Organic Farm was established in 2018 with a patch of sloping sand and a lot of prayers. Karen and son Tyler, started shaping our five acres into manageable sections, retaining an acre and a half in woods that surround the farm. One acre was divided into 14 fields specifically for an intensively planted market garden of mixed vegetables. Another acre was set aside for a future orchard that is starting to take shape.
Building soil is one of our biggest missions. We want and need our plants to thrive - not just survive. We added tons (literally semi truck loads) of nutrient rich compost to the sandy dunes, the clay patches and the impermeable layers of rock that weave like rivers through the fields. After torrential rains ripped through the fields during our first season, that beautiful compost was gone and the crops were buried deep into the sand. We started to establish grassed walk paths and landscape barriers to help manage storm water more effectively, we brought in more compost, reshaped the fields and planted again. Learning curves can be rough.
During this time we also started cultivating a community of volunteers and workshares. People from all walks of life - all ages and abilities - volunteered in numerous ways. Projects such as digging walk paths, helping build the high tunnel (greenhouse), planting thousands of seedlings, trellising tomatoes, and so many more were accomplished with many helping hands.
In the middle of our second season, the "storm" of 2020 hit... COVID. As everyone's lives began to drastically change, we were blessed with Ryan (oldest son) coming home from NYC for a "few weeks while this passes". He jumped into farm life with both feet and helped us move our farmer's market business model into an on-farm drive thru model that allowed us to stay healthy while serving more people and meeting new neighbors. We stayed open into mid August - way later than was practical in this Florida heat - and then took a much needed break from market.
We took this "break" time (Sept 2020) to clean up the fields, plant fall crops, raise some chicks, and add additional water barriers in the form of shade rows. Once established, these shade (fruit tree) rows will help with the intense summer heat, produce delicious organic fruit, and give our fields nutrient laden leaves in the winter as mulch.
Jan 2021 - We're in the middle of our third season and we're still three strong. The culinary industry in NYC - in which Ryan works - is still struggling, so we get to keep him a bit longer. We'll temp him to stay with fresh produce to cook and a touch of cooler weather on the way. Tyler is a high school senior and is focusing on pottery and art with the dream of having his own studio some day. Look to see his pottery debut at our farm market this coming summer. As for the farm - we're learning to weather the weather around here. Our shade rows have drastically improved our soil erosion issues and since they are heavily pine strawed they are also helping maintain some soil moisture during our drought times. We are trialing different cultivars of just about every crop to find what thrives in our little microclimate - and what can withstand the onslaught of pests and disease. We have found some definite keepers and look forward to diversifying our crop plan.
Mid 2022 - Time changes everything! Ryan returned to NYC almost a full year ago and Tyler has opened his pottery studio at the farm. He's officially the "Mud Slinger" and you can see his beautiful pottery at our Saturday morning farm market. It's also amazing to see the growth that has happened on the farm this season. We've focused on the shade rows and building them within the concepts of agroforestry (build it like a forest). Dense plantings of canopy trees for shade, mid-height fruit trees for food and understory plantings of vegetables, greens & herbs to cover the soil, enhance diversity & reduce pest pressure. The shade rows are also beautiful year round which is a great morale booster for everyone! The orchard has also been a focus this season and we used the same agroforestry concepts to fill in the orchard. We planted many companion plants that support the health of the fruit trees - along with canopy trees that will eventually shade the fruit to prevent sun scald. It's been a bit tricky planting during dry season and we're looking forward to some much needed rain. There's nothing like rain for the happiness of plants (and people!).
As usual - there's always plenty to do! If you find yourself wanting to get your hands dirty and work with some nice people - check out our workshare & volunteer opportunities.
Thank you for sharing in our journey!
Karen, Tyler, Ryan & few meows: Mooch, Fluff, Puff, Squish, Sami, Boo & Squash