Thursday, December 8, 2011

Once upon a Groupon

We recently featured a Groupon deal for an in-depth tour of our farm, hands-on gardening session, a fresh lunch, and a Q&A with Gabriele, founder of our beautiful farm. Our excitement only grew as guests began arriving armed with pen and paper, comfortable clothes (i.e. were ready for some hands on experience!), and an eagerness to learn and converse about organic gardening.
We love utilizing our farm as a setting for which to learn about organic gardening. We don’t teach in a sterile classroom setting; our “classroom” teems with the life forces we teach about. It is this live interaction with the subtleties of nature that inspires both questions and amazement.
…And so we started our guests off with a tour of the farm.
There is much to learn about our subtropical climate, one that is unique to the rest of the continental United States. Our summers are quite long and it is rare for our winters to see temperatures below freezing, a breaking point for many plants. We do not take for granted our location and work in harmony with nature to ensure year round fruit and vegetable growth and year round floral beauty.
Above we have Will Dukes discussing oyster mushrooms. To learn more about oyster mushrooms, please visit our blog post titled “The Fun Guy who grows the fungi”. There were a lot of great questions and a lot of great insights as we toured the farm and by the time we concluded the farm tour, everyone was super excited to apply all that we learned! We got our soil ready by giving a final sift to the nutrient rich compost, and then we dug in! We had seeds at the ready, some of which were harvested from our own plants, a very sustainable way to garden indeed! With seeds all planted, smiles were stretched ear to ear. Anyone who’s ever planted a seed knows how great it feels! Things could only get happier as lunch was served.
A meal at Paradise Farms always brings the whole experience wonderfully full circle as guests dine on plants they’ve seen, touched, and smelled. We had a great time and were so glad we were able to connect and reach out to an even greater audience interested in organic gardening philosophies and knowledge. Though the tour started with a sprinkling of rain, it was short lived and the day turned out to have beautiful weather, a beautiful sun, and a really great group(on) of guests!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Miami Culinary Institute Official Opening

Phew, what a blast we had! The official opening of the Miami Culinary Institute’s edible garden could not have been more beautiful. The magical energy in the air was incredible, as it always is when everyone is gathered to celebrate the unveiling of their collaborative efforts alongside friends, family, and newcomers. Over 100 people – students, administrators, and passerby alike – joined us for the opening!

Right before the opening, we were worried because of the rainy weather forecast. But the rain was turned out to be the perfect christening of the garden. Throughout the entire duration of the presentation, the rain fell and fell. But right when it was time to give the tour of the garden, the rain let up, leaving everything with beautiful droplets upon their leaves and flowers. The rain also served as a reminder to us of Mother Nature, and her amazing powers to perpetuate the cycle and recycle of rain and growth.

The garden was installed by Natural Greenscapes. Natural Greenscapes is a newly formed partnership between Gabriele and Diane Sugimoto, which plans, installs, and transforms commercial urban spaces into luscious edible greeneries. Both are excited to have been a part of what they and the Miami Culinary Institute are calling a new Soil to Soil initiative. This cutting edge initiative effects change in how future chefs come to know their ingredients – fresh, local, seasonal, and sustainable. In a world that is full of scientific food manipulation such as GMO and monoculture farming, this living classroom affords the students an intimate relationship with good healthy food. Food scraps from the Institute’s kitchen will also be composted and used in the garden for a true ‘soil to soil’ sustainable process.

Before After

(notice how much happier the Royal Poinciana tree at the bottom right is after some TLC!)

Since its inception, Gabriele has been honored to be a part of this amazing initiative. This is the first edible garden associated with a public culinary school in the US and we are hoping it is the first of many. She would like to give a most appreciative thank you to the MCI culinary team, under the direction of Chef Rich Achaia; John Richards and Victoria Nodarse of Miami Dade College; Diane Sugimoto, partner of Natural Greenscapes; and the local community; for their tremendous efforts and awesome support. Thank you, thank you.

For those interested, Gabriele will also be teaching a class as part of the Institute’s Enthusiasts Program, as the garden becomes the platform for growing culinary gardeners.

Pictures are worth a thousand words, so here are some more from the opening:

John Richards, Director of MCI, admiring a lime tree.

Just imagine: we cannot wait for the chain link fence to be covered with trellising plants! In another year, this garden will look even more transformed and plush with plants!

The Natural Greenscapes team!

Food compliments of the garden and the students!

The deep blue clitoria flowers are from our farm as they had not yet flowered in the garden. All food was prepared by MCI students!

Having some fun, inspired by Grant Woods ‘American Gothic’ painting!

Notice in the background how everything has taken amazingly - all the plants are just thriving in their new home! Paradise Farms and Natural Greenscapes feel like proud parents!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Farm tour

We had received numerous phone calls and emails from individuals who wanted to take a tour of our farm. Excited energy is certainly contagious and so we had decided to open our farm to the public for a tour!
The tour went great! We were so excited to talk organic gardening as this was a group that came specifically for a tour of our farm. It might be July, but there was still much to see, smell, and taste on our lush farm. I think the favorite part of the tour group was the cranberry hibiscus. This beautiful plant is makes an attractive leafy addition to any garden and the leaves and flowers are both edible. The leaves are slightly tart, maybe even a hint salty. Either way, they make a tasty and eye-catching addition to any salad. They could even be used as a garnish for a dish that needs a little tang on top of every bite. I did a quick Google search of cranberry hibiscus and found that the flowers are commonly made into a smoothie with a little sugar and lime. I personally have only had the leaves in salad, but I would imagine the flowers would make a delicious smoothie! (Who doesn’t love a smoothie?!)

Everyone had a blast. We inspired many to begin a backyard organic garden and we felt ‘mission accomplished’! The tour was this past Saturday and despite the warming summer months and subtropical rainy season, beautiful weather prevailed! Not one rain drop fell from the time that the first guest arrived to the time that the very last guest left. As soon as we exchanged goodbyes with the last guest, the sky broke and heavy rain drops began to fall.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Flower planting day

Throughout the year, there are moments on the farm that our entire staff collaborates on a project. By working closely together to achieve a specific goal, it allows us to channel our positive energy and reconnect with each other. Getting our hands dirty is what we do best and so we decided that we would all plant flowers on Friday June 24th.

June 24 marks Saint John the Baptist Day as well as the Summer Solstice. The Summer Solstice is the day that the sun is at its zenith and the earth is at its most fertile, promising a bountiful harvest. We certainly love working in tandem with the earth to yield a bountiful harvest, as this is the pinnacle of our spiritual philosophy. In anticipation of this harvest, we have eagerly awaited this day to plant!

In Latin culture, it is good luck to plant on this day. A few of our staff members also informed us that St. John the Baptist Day is a good day to cut your hair! It is said that it encourages strong growth for your hair.

Wow, we planted over 7,200 seeds! It was a wonderful group effort and we are excited to see just how bountiful our harvest will be!

Trays filled with soil and ready for seeds

Planting nasturtium seeds

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The fun guy who grows the fungi

Our mushroom man, Shawn, has arrived and here is the proof!
With his help, we have spent a long time and put in a lot of hard work to prepare the farm for growing mushrooms. We have made many changes to the various stages of mushroom cultivation including the lab, incubation room, and grow room. Mushrooms are finicky organisms and all our hard efforts are finally starting to be realized!
Just as trees bear fruit and plants bear flowers, fungi bear mushrooms. The culinary delicacy we are familiar with - the mushroom - is the height of growth, just as the flower is on a plant. The body of the mushroom is actually the microscopically colonized substrate from which it grows. The mushroom body breaks down this substrate into nutritious food; in a sense it is similar to the soil that provides nutrients and holds water for a plant. Mushrooms are, believe it or not, more closely related to animals than plants. Wherever you may see them growing, it just may have been the result of the stars aligning, for they require just the right conditions to grow. Here at Paradise Farms, we are growing oyster mushrooms, a versatile mushroom delicious grilled, roasted, sautéed. . .so many ways!
Not only versatile in culinary dishes, it is a medicinal mushroom that has shown activity against cancer and high cholesterol. They can also break down petroleum products into harmless compounds (using fungi to clean up the environment is a field known as mycoremediation).
Shawn fruited this bag early. As they say, the proof is in the pudding and I can say that with a little butter, salt, onion and garlic, the “pudding” (in this case mushrooms) is delicious! Full production will shortly be underway! Our tummies and taste buds await anxiously.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Biodynamic preparation 101

Phew. As we near summer, we near the end of our busy season. We have been busy with Dinners in Paradise at night, harvesting during the day, Brunches in Paradise on the weekends, not to mention our bungalow guests and private events! We will have more posts soon to capture all of our activities!

But first, to touch on one of our continuing endeavors: Biodynamic Farming! And we have our expert, Janelle, to instruct and assist us on our Biodynamic path! You may be asking what is biodynamic farming? It is a method of organic farming that works to balance the relationship between the soil, plants, and animals. Instead of using pesticides and fertilizers, it emphasizes the use of manure, compost, and herbal and mineral preparations to enrich soil structure, soil life, humus, and thereby pest control. Everything is done according to an astronomical sowing and planting calendar. It takes organic farming even further.

The Biodynamic journey begins with a nine-step preparation, numbered 500 thru 508. The preparation helps stimulate the physical world to enable the etheric world (those subtle energies that science cannot explain) to complete the role of providing the appropriate balance between man and nature. We have already finished step 500, which you can see in the picture from “The New Team” blog post. You can see Janelle placing fresh manure into a cow horn. While this may sound (er, smell!) unappealing, the result is an incredibly nutrient rich soil!

The picture at the top is us hard at work on the next step: 501. We are crushing quartz into an ultra fine powder between two panes of glass; earplugs are highly recommended! This will be packed into a cow horn and buried from spring through the summer. When we unbury it in the fall, we will mix it with water and use it as a spray to stimulate and regulate growth. Although biodynamic farming is a timely process, it gains more and more positive energy with each action!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day on the farm, part 2

It was 8:00 in the morning on Mother’s Day and the day of our Mother’s Day Brunch. As with every brunch, we create fragrant, beautiful, and edible flower arrangements. So I began to collect bigger plant leaves that would serve as a base for the arrangements. I thought that our large leafed oregano, with its vibrant kelly green color, would make for an excellent base. As I roamed the patch, looking for the most pristine of leaves, this one leaflet stole my attention.

I suppose oregano does not normally grow like this? Either way, I wanted to share this beautiful discovery with you!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day on the farm

By Maria Marewski for Paradise Farms

Mother’s Day Brunch was the last event for the season at Paradise Farm Organics and its series of dinners and more recently, brunches on the farm. It seems somehow fitting that it was Mother’s Day. The end of a season, a project, an event can be bittersweet. If we look at the cycle of nature, we can see that endings are a natural part of change and growth and that endings do no signify failure, but growth.

And it is mothers who know more than anyone, that change and growth has its own rhythm of activity and quietness, of movement forward and movement backwards as challenge and integration mark the journey to change. Just before spurts of growth, many children exhibit regression to the safety of familiar younger behaviors. This retreat is a preparation for what will soon look like a leap.

At the Mother’s Day Brunch the talk at my table of ten turned to gardening, or perhaps more accurately, home farming. The mother of a young family of four was growing an edible garden to supplement the fresh, and very local, food available to her family. Her girls helped in the growing process. The grown family of three was also discovering the joys of home farming. Retired from the work-a-day world, this mature mother has been discovering not only her passion for agriculture but also a growing talent in building something which is essentially a system. Self taught, this mother has been benefitting from the other side effect of growing one’s own food, and that is growing one’s abilities and range through daily problem solving. The more you do it, the better you become, learning through meeting all kinds of new challenges, both big and small. Although there are accepted protocols and practices, farming is always specific to the piece of land on which one is farming. There is always the tweaking that comes from noticing, from giving attention to details, and it is here that the dialog between nature and humans is visible. This dialog brings us into the moment and helps us to be aware of and alive to the present moment.

Farming, like mothering, is about the daily rhythm of nurturing and care and a daily investment onto the future.

Change is afoot. Let us embrace it with the devotion, patience, intelligence, adaptability, and faith of Mother Nature herself.