Locavores Gear Up for Growing Season
"September through May is really the growing season in South Florida," said Jason McCobb, also known as Farmer Jay. Based in Boca Raton, McCobb runs a ten-acre farm and hosts the Thursday-evening Moonlit Farmers Market. "The rule of thumb is you need for evenings to drop below 75 degrees, which is starting about now," he said.
McCobb says that in a few weeks, he'll begin planting heirloom tomatoes -- open-pollinated varieties that have been in circulation for 50 years or more -- that he'll harvest through May. His favorite varieties are Cherokee purples, a little Mexican variety called coyote, green zebras, and Brandywines.
In the meantime, he's building a rooftop garden for Max's Harvest and working on educating others in how to grow their own produce. "I need 50 of me. There's plenty of demand here but not enough people who know how to do the business of organic farming," he said.
McCobb, a native Floridian who apprenticed in Sonoma with Bob Cannard, the grower for Alice Waters and Chez Panisse, said he's hoping to help shift South Florida toward a year-round growing season by culling a demand for tropical fruits and vegetables that may not be as familiar to many of the area's northern transplants.
McCobb says he is working with Palm Beach County to secure 100 acres for a farmers' market cooperative. "For people like me," he said, "land prices are just too much here, and there is not enough of a support network."
This summer, he's been growing galangal, scotch bonnets, ginger, herbs, and microgreens that he sells to Max's Harvest, DIG, and the Green Gourmet market and at the farmers' market.
Farmer Jay isn't the only one who's shifting to a year-round growing season. The Southwest Broward Vegetable Growers Association of Davie harvests okra, thyme, peppers, pumpkins, and callaloo in the peak summer months, reports David Walter in today's Miami Herald. The association was founded in 2000 by four families and has grown to 90 farmers and more than 100 acres.
"When it comes to this business, this area is 15 years behind California in terms of year-round harvesting," said McCobb. "I'm really working to change it."
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