Florida Vacation: Kai Kai Farms
It has been a while since I last time I was on vacation. My girlfriend and myself decide that a trip to Florida over the holiday would be a great escape from the winter weather. I did not fly direct to Florida, we had a few different layovers and a few hours to kill between each flight. This gave me the unique experience as a chef to explore all the fine foods that an airport offers. I was quickly surprised by all the options. I ended up eating at a Asian-fusion restaurant in Philadelphia, that to my surprise had a delish ramen bowl.
Once I landed in Palm Beach around 6:30 pm after spending the last 12 hrs traveling, bouncing from airport to airport. My girlfriends mom had some leftovers that quickly filled me up. Mashed potatoes, minestrone soup and sugar cookies from the neighbors. It was a great start to my vacation.
The next day I woke up with the desire for breakfast. My girlfriend was looking for the classic deli meal of smoked salmon and cream cheese. I always enjoy a good smoked salmon and cream cheese from a traditional Jewish Deli. We came upon a quiet small café The Blue Door Cafe, that ironically served up Counter Culture coffee and a damn good espresso. This made me felt good to see a coffee place that cares about its beans.
We had dinner at one of the new hot spots District Table & Bar, it is Farm To Table. “Never judge a book by it’s cover” that being said as we drove in a shopping plaza. Eating in shopping plazas is weird but everything in Florida is one shopping plaza to the next housing development. We were quickly seated and our waiter Nathan started leading us through the meal. After asking Nathan about Farm To Table in Florida, he informed me that he also works at a local farm called Kai Kai Farms. He told me that he could take me to the farm, give me a tour and explain to me the Florida farming. I knew that the dirt in New York was different from the dirt in Florida. I did not know if the techniques and methods would be the same.
The next day we met up with Nathan in the early afternoon to take a tour of the farm. I bought some friends along Scott & Jenn to the farm. The weather was pleasant, breeze with temperatures in the mid 70’s. The winter weather in Florida is the most pleasant time but it as it moments of tense raining. The growing season in lot longer than it is in New York.
Nathan gave us a tour of the operations at the farm. The farm uses a lot of shipping containers, that’s right old shipping containers to store produce, grow sensitive crops and gardens protected from the elements. One of the primary reason for the containers is because they are movable (no building permits), easy to build, add-on to and Hurricane resistant. Very clever and smart.
Nathan took us out the fields and showed us the plants the farm were growing. Starting with kale, broccoli, radishes, strawberries, kohlrabi, tat soi, okra, cabbage, and much more. They have these giant “shade tents” to protect some of the smaller plants that were just starting. They block a small amount sunlight and stop the plants from being severely injured from sometimes heavy rain. They were quite impressive, we were in full shock that structures like this were man-made. It was almost mind-blowing to me.
Inside of the tent was the owner/boss man of the farm Carl, hard at work. Always the most impressive, leading by example. I enjoyed speaking with Carl, we spoke of the times that are hard, other times that are fun, of troubles and differences that we both have in our professions. Learning that our deer problem is minor to the wild boar problem that they meet. I found out it is so bad/dangerous at times professional hunters shoot them from helicopters! Yes, from helicopters. What I found even more surprising was that the hunters can’t find sell the meat and I asked them to ship them my way. As a farm to table chef these are opportunities that I search for. A native product that is just there. We didn’t have to feed it or watch it. It was pure and un wild. Just like wild salmon.
We finished up our tour following Nathan to the beginning of the farm, where we said our goodbyes. It really is a commitment to live the farm to table lifestyle. I began searching my head for the words that best describes the experience I share with everyone in the food community. Community is the first that come to mind, Chain is another. I say “Chain” because together it’s what we build. When one link breaks the chain, the community suffers. If the commitment was stronger of Farmer to Chef, then we can build an unbreakable chain. We fill our heads with everyday low prices and forget about the quality. The hands/love that put in the hard work to make it all happen. Next time you make that salad I urge you to buy local. Go directly to that farm and see that lettuce grow. Pick the apple from the tree and not from under fluorescent lights. Thank you again to Kai Kai Farms for letting us come visit their amazing farm. If you are ever in the Stuart/ Palm Beach, FL region stop by their farmers market or take a visit at the farm, you won’t regret it.