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Posts Tagged ‘Margie Pikarsky’

Florida Organic Growers (FOG) is organizing a Free Organic Farming Workshop at LNB Groves and Bee Heaven Farm in Homestead, Florida. The event will take place on Thursday October 11th 2012 , from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. The workshop will provide practical information and advice about organic tropical fruit and vegetable production, sustainable soil and weed management, marketing, and organic certification. The workshop is designed for current and prospective farmers, as well as service providers who are interested in learning and sharing about organic farming.

Marc Ellenby from LNB Groves and Margie Pikarsky from Bee Heaven Farm, along with FOG, will lead this workshop in these two locations. Marc Ellenby manages about 160 acres of tropical fruit groves in South Florida. He’s currently transitioning 15 acres to organic management. Species in production includes sapodilla, mamey sapote, black sapote, jackfruit, and dragon fruit. Marc will share with participants his insights into tropical fruit species and variety selection, weed management, organic certification and marketing. Marc will have the assistance of Tropical Fruit Crop Specialist Jonathan Crane from IFAS’ Tropical Research and Education Center.

Later in the day workshop participants will move to Bee Heaven Farm (about 1 mile away from LNB Groves) to learn about intense organic vegetable farming. Since 1995 Margie Pikarsky has managed Bee Heaven Farm, a five acre certified organic vegetable, herb and fruit farm. Bee Heaven Farm produces prized avocados and heirloom tomatoes, along with a wide variety of crops. Additionally the farm created a multifarm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program that has grown tremendously. Margie will lead participants into an interactive tour of her farm and will share insights into managing organic vegetable production on limited acreage, soil management, organic certification and her CSA program.

The Farmer workshop is organized by Florida Organic Growers (FOG), a non-profit organization established in 1987 in Gainesville; and supported by a Specialty Crop Block Grant administer by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. FOG’s Education and Outreach Program promotes organic agriculture and healthy and just food systems, informing producers, consumers, media, institutions and governments about the benefits of organic and sustainable agriculture.

Space is limited and registration is required. Mail your completed registration form to Florida Organic Growers, P.O. Box 12311, Gainesville, FL 32604, fax to 352.377.8363, call 352.377.6355 or e-mail jose@foginfo.org. For more information visit www.foginfo.org/workshopsDownload registration form here

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Now is the time to sign up for farmers’ producer-sharing plans

Miami-Dade food loves can sign up now to get a share of fresh-grown produce straight from local farms.

By Christina Veiga cveiga@MiamiHerald.com

Fall marks the beginning of the main growing season for farmers in deep South Miami-Dade County. It’s also a time when veggie-lovers can join a CSA, or Community Supported Agriculture program.

CSA members pay in advance for fresh produce grown at local farms, explained Diane Diaz, who helps run Teena’s Pride CSA in Homestead.

Members get a share of the CSA’s harvest, the size of which will depend in part on Mother Nature. “It’s kind of like buying stocks into the farm, and as long as we don’t have a hurricane or a freeze, then your stocks are secure,” she said.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/09/04/2984348/now-is-the-time-to-sign-up-for.html

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Margie Pikarsky with bunches of parsnips from Bee Heaven Farm.

Local food writer Ellen Kanner writes a blog about food on Huffington Post. As part of the “Who Grows Our Food” series of farmer profiles, today’s post is about one of our best-known local growers, Margie Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farm. Check it out here:

Who Grows Our Food: Margie Pikarsky, Bee Heaven Farm

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ellen-kanner/who-grows-our-food-margie_b_1671108.html

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Mango Cafe at the Fruit and Spice Park

Recently, farmer Margie Pikarsky and her husband Nick, daughter Rachel and my friend John DeFaro joined me for lunch at the Mango Cafe, located at the Fruit and Spice Park. The Cafe is by the park’s main entrance, inside a rustic wooden house. We were there for the fruit sampler, made fresh daily from whatever fruits are ripe that day in the park. Talk about extreme locavore! But the sampler was sold out so we had to console ourselves with other fresh, local delicacies like Florida lobster roll, shrimp tacos, and mango-passionfruit shakes.

John DeFaro and Margie Pikarsky dig in to lunch. On the wall behind is a picture of the Redland District Band of 1913, and a Redland District tour guide from the 1930s.

The wooden house is not as old as it looks. It’s a reproduction. The original was built in 1902 by pioneer settler John Bauer, and got destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The replica was rebuilt with FEMA funds and completed in 2002. Inside the house (where the original living and dining rooms would have been), framed old photos and maps lined the walls. Over by the front door was a map with charred edges. It’s the original planting guide that had been saved from a fire. By our table was a series of pictures of the first land survey for the park in 1944, the year the park opened. Sixty eight years ago the land was almost completely barren, except for a scattering of royal palms and Australian pines. Big difference between then and now!

Now the 37 acre county park is lush with over 500 varieties of fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs and nuts, some you may have heard of, and many you might not have. Tram tours will take you around, and the guide will fill you in about the plants and the history of the park. Where else in Miami would you find 150 varieties of mangos, 75 varieties of bananas, crimson gak fruit, sensitive cacao growing sheltered in a heated greenhouse, or annatto to stain your fingertips bright orange?

Park manager Chris Rollins

Fruit and Spice Park is also the site for many events and festivals throughout the year. Coming up this month is the Redland Heritage Festival, which will feature historical exhibits, local arts and crafts, and an Everglades reptile show. At one Heritage Festival a few years ago, I remember admiring a collection of vintage tractors, and at another sampling a variety of mangoes. Coming up later in the year, the park will also host the Asian Culture festival, the Redland International Orchid Show, and summer’s Mango Mania.

If you haven’t been to the park, go! It’s nothing you’ve seen before. If you haven’t gone in a while, go again. They’ve added an herb garden and a large pond edged with many varieties of bamboo. The place changes as different plants bloom and bear at different times of the year. Word to the curious — please don’t pick fruits off trees, but you may taste what has fallen to the ground. Most plants or fruits are safe to nibble, unless a sign warns otherwise.

37th Annual Redland Heritage Festival
January 21 and 22, 2012 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission $8 (children 11 and under are free)

Fruit and Spice Park
24801 SW 187 Ave. Homestead FL
305-247-5727

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Avocado grove getting trimmed.

The avocado season is over at Bee Heaven Farm. The last of the big, plump Donnie avocados got picked weeks ago. The lull between picking fruit and and blooming season (usually around January) brings off-season maintenance. Almost every year the tree trimmer comes to cut back all the avocado trees. Call it their summertime haircut, with a little off the sides and top.

Trimming happens for practical reasons. Farmer Margie Pikarsky explained, “You don’t need a tall tree to produce fruit, and you don’t get a proportionally greater harvest just because it’s tall. Harvesting a tall tree is way more labor-intensive and requires special equipment — at minimum a tall ladder, at best a cherry picker.” Avocados are picked by hand, and Margie’s pickers either climb the tree or go up an orchard ladder, which has a tripod-like leg to keep it standing up by itself. Margie added that “a shorter tree (about 15 feet) is MUCH more hurricane resistant.”

A little off the sides.

When you have a grove of 90-some trees, you need to bring in some serious cutting power. The man who trims trees showed up early one morning with a very impressive machine. Imagine a bobcat whose operator not only drives the machine but also controls an articulated arm mounted at the top. This arm can reach up or down, swing around from side to side, or turn from horizontal to vertical. At the business end of this arm is a revolving metal piece, and three spinning circular saw blades are attached to it. Those revolving blades cut through branches smoothly and easily. The whole rig looks like something Freddy Scissorhands dreamed up.

And a little off the top.

The tree trimmer drove his cutting machine up and down the shaggy rows of the avocado grove. He maneuvered the arm to first trim the sides of the rows, and then made a final pass to level the tops. Branches fell onto the safety cage of the bobcat and onto the ground. Scraggly trees transformed into huge boxy hedges, like something you might find in a giant’s formal garden.

Sadie (under tree) and Pedro (with pitchfork) gather cut branches.

Once the tree trimmer was done, there was a mess to clean up. Pedro used a pitchfork to grab and pull out cut branches that had snagged in trees. Sadie went after branches lying underneath. They were tossed on the grass in between the rows. Then Margie came with the bush hog to chew up fallen branches and turn them into coarse mulch. (A bush hog is a tractor attachment that looks and works like a large, heavy duty mower.) Margie made a few passes up and down each row, and gestured for me to step aside, but I stood my ground, taking pictures. I quickly realized that it wasn’t a good idea for me to stand off to the side as the bush hog went by. Twice I got hit by bits of flying branches, once on the foot and once on the arm. No blood lost, just a moment of surprise. (I think Margie was trying to warn me not to lose a camera — or an eye.) Lesson learned: don’t stand too close to a working brush hog!

Margie mulches branches with the brush hog.

What looks like a severe trimming is not bad for the tree. In fact, trimming keeps trees healthy and vigorous. They will grow new branches and look less and less boxy as the months go by. “Avocados flower and fruit on new growth, so trimming after harvest is finished gives them time for a couple of new growth flushes before blooming begins, thus increasing chances of a good yield next season,” Margie explained. More new growth means more fruit and more deliciousness in summer!

After the trim.

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