In mid-October, I visited four farms and gardens in Kendall, Homestead and The Redland: Frank Macaluso’s Kendall home, Elfin Acres (owned by longtime test gardener, gardening writer and Miami Dade College organic gardening instructor, Andres Mejides), Three Sisters Farm and The Farm at Verde Gardens.
About a year ago, Homestead Air Reserve Base land was turned into The Farm at Verde Gardens. 22 acres include farmland, along with Homestead Harvest Market, where produce from The Farm at Verde Gardens and other farms is sold, and where a cafe will soon open.
The goal is also to provide jobs and job training to the formerly homeless people who live in the Verde Gardens transitional homes. Verde Gardens is a collaboration between Earth Learning, a Miami group focused on sustainability, and Carrfour Supportive Housing.
The focus of the October tour was the farm. Mario Yanez, a farmer, as well as founder and director of Earth Learning, told us that much of The Farm at Verde Gardens is a “food forest.”
Much of the farm really does look like a wild tropical forest. I would not have realized, walking through the farm without a guide, how many of the plants around me were edible or that they had even been deliberately planted.
The goal is to make the food forest as self-sustaining as possible, without the use of pesticides and fertilizers. For example, crops which help each other grow are planted together. Yanez pointed to a section where boniato and pigeon peas grow near each other. Pigeon peas fix nitrogen in the soil. Boniato provides a dense ground cover to prevent weeds from filling in: “We fill in as much space densely with edible plants so nature doesn’t fill it in with invasive plants.”
As much as possible, Yanez wants the farm to be self-sustaining and to use resources to their fullest potential. The trunks of Royal Poinciana trees that were already growing on the land are going to be used as bases for vertical growth. Rotting wood, from the invasive Brazilian pepper plants that once covered most of the land where the farm is now, was used to make a fence.
Among many, many other things, the farm grows bananas, papaya, spinach, sesame, plantain, sugar cane, taro and herbs. Teff and amaranth are being grown experimentally.
Below are more photos from the farm visit.
Related: Read about Frank Macaluso’s Kendall yard, which he turned into an edible garden.