Full Earth Farm in Quincy, Florida: Eat Local, America! Blog Entry
By Jenn Bronson
Yesterday afternoon I went over to the Lake Ella Farmers Market and was instantly drooling over the abundance of local produce. There were stacks of ripe tomatoes, pounds of fresh picked blueberries, piles of colorful peppers, and even homemade breads and soaps. I was immediately wishing I had “borrowed” more cash from my husband’s wallet. My goal was not only to do some shopping, but also to chat with a farmer. One of the major benefits of buying locally grown or produced foods is that you are able to actually meet the people behind the product and even visit the farm to see their practices in action. This idea of meeting the people who provide the food brought me to the Full Earth Farm table and Katie Harris.
Katie had a secret plan when she moved back to the area from New England—to farm her family’s land in Quincy. After a year of in-depth research and working at another local farm, Turkey Hill Farm, where she learned irreplaceable information, her secret became a reality known as Full Earth Farm. With financial help from her family and volunteer help from friends, Katie and her partner Aaron keep the farm going as a team. Full Earth Farm follows organic standards, but like many small farms is not yet certified due to the cost. In reality, the USDA regulations for organics are meant for big business, mass production farms. These rules are not appropriate for smaller, family run, local farms that already follow their own strict organic guidelines. Instead of the USDA keeping an eye on them, they have someone closer to home doing it—each other. Katie tells me that local farmers hold each other accountable for what they say they are doing and will call each other out if they know it to be untruthful. This, to me, beats the big boy’s regulations any day.
For Full Earth Farm, organic practices not only produce mouth-watering, healthy produce, but also protect and build the land they grow it on. Their earth friendly routines include using cover crops which add nutrients to the soil when turned under, and also provide weed suppression and erosion control while the seedlings are getting started. Their main fertilizer is compost, which they make on site in big beautiful heaps of sweet-cooking goodness. Katie says their main goal is to “recreate the forest floor…one of the richest places on Earth.” To accomplish this they combine carbon, leaves or wood chips, with nitrogen, manure and food scraps, to create the rich humus that they apply to the field. This process plus the use of organic pesticides only when absolutely necessary allows Full Earth Farm to provide a table full of the most beautiful heirloom tomatoes, deep purple beans, tall white radishes, perfectly sweet cucumbers, and round stuffing squash that people can trust is safe, healthy, and delicious.
Getting to know Katie pumped me up even more about this eating local initiative. Just talking with her I could feel her enthusiasm for growing quality food and protecting the land. As she says, “Feed the soil, and the soil will feed you.” I left with a bag full of three different types of tomatoes, cucumbers, and purple beans. I headed home to make dinner using all of it!
For more blog entries by Jenn Bronson, visit www.eatlocalamerica.coop.