A guide to organic and all-natural farms and markets in the Bay-area
Urban Oasis Hydroponic Farm
Dave and Cathy Hume are exactly the kind of farmers you imagine when visiting a community farm. They’ll always call you by your first name, ask about the family and love to talk you into exploring the new foods that they’ve got in stock. Dave grew up in Tampa and has spent much of his professional life around plants in one way or another. He and Cathy built Urban Oasis Hydroponic Farm back in 2008 with the idea that if they sell everything they harvest they’ll be in good shape. “We never intended to get rich off this, and we aren’t,” Cathy says. In 2012, the couple faced a good problem for a farmer to have: they weren’t producing enough for their expanding clientele. They spent much of the past summer expanding the farm to its current acre and a half landscape. All of the produce they sell is chemical free and grown hydroponically on-site using organic growing principles. The market is open to the public Friday and Saturday. Seasonal farm share members get first dibs on the fall, winter and spring harvests, but there’s plenty of food to go around. The crop list includes pretty much everything you’ve find in the grocery store and much more.
Urban Oasis Hydroponic Farm is located at 5416 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa, FL 33624. For more information, call 813.293.FARM or visit urbanoasisfarm.com.
Providence Cattle Company
Finding Florida-raised cattle that has been fed an all-natural grass diet can be tricky. Farmer Joe Planz saw the potential for a niche beef market when local chefs started calling on his ranch in 2011. Joe grew up on the farm and his although his grain-fed cattle were in good quality he wanted to offer local a healthy, earth-friendly alternative to commercial, factory-produced beef. With a little coaxing from his wife and some help from his friends in the steer business, Joe opened Providence Cattle Company in 2011. His beef can be found in 12 retail locations across the Bay area, as well as 14 local restaurants. Joe says his cows are free of antibiotics and hormone supplements and raised on natural grasses and legumes instead of grains, which makes the meat leaner. Look out for a possible expansion in early 2013.
For a completed, updated list of retail locations, visit providencecattle.com or call 727.459.3423.
Pasture Prime Family Farm
Head up to Marion County south of Ocala and you’ll find one of the largest sustainable animal farms in the state. All-natural and 100-percent grass-fed Wagyu cattle, free-range chickens, free-range turkeys, Berkshire pigs and Mangalitsa pigs; the Siverson family is raising their animals through eco-friendly principles by preserving the integrity of both the animal and the land. The family has owned the piece of land in Central Florida since 1973 and operated a dairy of more than 800 cows until about 1997 when Tom Siverson started transitioning the farm to a grass-fed cattle ranch. Today they raise more than 300 cattle and sell their meat online, which is available for pick up at the farm or local farmers markets. If you don’t want to drive up to Ocala, they’ll ship it down to you for a fee.
Pasture Prime Family Farm is located at 4141 SE 180th St., Summerfield, FL 34491. For more information, call 352.266.9504 or visit pastureprimewagyu.com.
Sweetwater Organic Community Farm
There is perhaps no larger organic community farm in Tampa Bay than Sweetwater in the suburban neighborhood of Town ‘n’ Country. Founded in 1995 by Rick Martinez, the six-acre community-supported farm offers a bevy of sustainably grown and certified organic fruits and vegetables. Sweetwater has farm shares available but also sells its produce publicly and to local restaurants. Its seasonal farmer’s market brings vendors from across the Bay area to the farm every Sunday morning. At the market, you’ll find anything from handmade goods, fair trade coffee and artisan breads, to farm-fresh eggs, local honey and other food items. The volunteers will even give you a tour of the farm.
Sweetwater Organic Community Farm is located at 6942 W. Comanche Ave., Tampa, FL 33634. For more information, visit sweetwater-oganic.com or call 813.887.4066.
Gateway Organic Farm
Hank and Pamela Sindlinger have brought the family farm to one of the most unlikely places: urban Clearwater. These modern farmers are utilizing nearly every possible piece of their 3.19-acre property, which is squished between a trailer park and the suburbs and bordered by local schools and churches. What’s even more impressive is the couple is also raising their two grandchildren, Stephanie and Steven, right on the farm. It may look like a step back to the good ol’ days they lived back in Ohio, but these retirees sure are making a name for themselves in Pinellas County. The Small Farm and Alternative Enterprise Conference selected them for the 2012 “Innovative Farmer’s of the Year” award. And they’re sitting on the board of various small farming organizations, including Slow Food Tampa Bay, the Southwest Florida Small Farm Council and more. As for the produce, it’s all USDA Certified Organic. Gateway offers a strong list of vegetables, herbs, flowers, raw honey and farm eggs. Pamela says they have about 75 current CSA members and are working with local restaurants as much as they possibly can.
Gateway Organic Farm is located at 6000 150th Ave. N, Clearwater, FL 33760. For more information, call 727.244.0724 or visit gatewayorganicfarm.com.
Jensen Bros. Seafood
John Jensen founded his seafood business almost 28 years ago with his father and a bevy of North Carolina rainbow trout. With a home base in Dunedin, the father-son team would go door-to-door throughout Tampa Bay and sell their trout. Over the years, Jensen’s seafood business grew to a full-fledged distribution house selling fresh Gulf fish, shellfish, and other specialty items to nearby hotels, restaurants and more. It wasn’t until a little over three years ago that John decided to open his garage doors of his warehouse and start selling his fish to the public. Today his refrigerator is packed with fresh—never frozen—seafood and his freezers are full of true Florida seafood. From grouper, snapper, hogfish, cobia and wahoo to Key West shrimp, rock lobster, scallops, alligator and swordfish, Jensen Bros. Seafood has terrific selection at reasonable prices.
Jensen Bros. Seafood is located at 911 Douglas Ave., Dunedin, FL 34698. For more information, call 727.735.0755 or visit jensenbros-seafood.com.
3 Boys Farm
Farmer Robert Tornello has combined old school farming techniques, modern science and technology and a brilliant business acumen to create what very well might be the most advanced farm in Florida, if not the country. A former landscaper known for his outstanding designs, Tornello founded his state-of-the-art organic hydroponic farm after studying other farms in Holland and Israel and working with University of Florida scientists. His goal? To take out the natural yet harmful effects that the environment imposes on our crop yields and create a sustainable, organic farming system that can produce nutritious and natural fruits and vegetables 365 days a year. That means you can get organic lettuce year-round without using pesticides or shipping it in from across the world. The Ruskin farm is named after Tornello’s three sons and is completely carbon neutral. He says the greenhouses can he duplicated and spread across the world to sustain any environment. Although his produce is currently only available in wholesale, Tornello is selling samples of his food at the St. Petersburg Farmer’s Market and has intentions to sell his food in Tampa Bay area grocery stores in the near future.
For more information on 3 Boys Farm, call 813.645.5445 or visit 3boysfarm.com.
Frenchy’s Seafood Company
The Frenchy’s restaurants on Clearwater Beach have always been known for its fresh-off-the-boat grouper and stonecrabs. Frenchy himself bought his first boat back in 1983 and founded the Frenchy’s Seafood Company to process this fish right after it comes off the boats. Everyday between 8am and noon, the fish house opens its doors to the public to not only show off the fish that will soon make its way into the restaurants and onto your plate, but to also sell seafood to the public. Frenchy’s Seafood Company is located on the docks behind the Saltwater Café. Be sure to grab a grouper sandwich after you grab a few filets.
Frenchy’s Seafood Company is located at 419 E. Shore Dr., Clearwater Beach, FL 33767. For more information, call 727.442.6411 or visit frenchysonline.com