Farm to Table - a Wild Hare Expedition
Eric Clapton gently nudged me from the blissful state of slumber. What the hell? The sun wasn’t even up yet, but Slowhand was relentless.
No, this wasn’t a dream folks. This was my alarm clock telling me it was time to support our local farmers. You see, I had signed on for a ride-along to get a first-hand view of how the concept of farm to table works.
One day, as I was stopped at a red light on my way to the grocery store, I noticed a ‘coming soon’ sign in the window of a vacant shop. I was elated to learn that the new occupant would be offering fresh, locally grown organic produce. Having the Mrs. Greenjeans mindset that I do, I kept a watch on the storefront until it looked like the hustle and bustle of stocking the store was in full motion.
Naturally, being a writer and environmentally conscious, I made it a point to welcome the curator to the neighborhood and ask for an interview. Cheryl obliged and a friendship soon formed. I posted a few articles about this awesome woman and her business, which is less than a mile from my home, on examiner.com. I’m the official Orlando Green Living Examiner for that site, although I have since stopped writing for them. I’m going to get a little off point here, but I don’t find that particular site as rewarding or personable as HP, although I did learn how to write from a reporter’s point of view.
Back to the point.
For 20 years, Cheryl Bryant had a dream of opening a business using the term “wild hair” somewhere in the name. Yes, you have it right. Cheryl had a wild hair up her – well, you know.
Although she had been selling her homegrown produce on the weekends at a local farmers market, Cheryl wanted to do more. She made some phone calls, was introduced to some of the areas’ farmers and her idea blossomed. Farmers introduced her to more farmers. Cheryl wanted to expand her business and support of locally grown foods to the community outside the farmers’ market level. In April 2013 Cheryl’s passion for organic foods and supporting our local farmers culminated in the opening of Wild Hare Kitchen and Garden Emporium, in Longwood, Florida.
Pack ‘em up and head ‘em out
Cheryl’s enthusiasm for supporting our local farmers is infectious. She cuts out the middleman by personally driving to the various farms each Friday to pick up what she needs to fill the store for that week. This practice eliminates the need to jack up the prices in order to cover shipping costs. Additionally, she personally inspects every product before loading it into her Honda Element. You’d be surprised how much produce that little car can accommodate!
Anyway, I asked Cheryl if I could schedule a ride-along to see how it’s done. This brings me back to Eric Clapton. My alarm was set for 4:30 a.m. on a Friday in May when Eric Clapton chose to be the one to raise me from my sleepy state. Our day was to begin at 6:00 a.m.
When I arrived at the shop, Cheryl was loading the Element with produce trays to return to the farmers, large coolers and three roosters. Yes, I said roosters. Apparently, they were bought as pets by a couple of Wild Hare customers who just couldn’t handle the inopportune cocka-doodle-do-ing. Cheryl was sure she could find them a new home, which she did.
Our first stop was The Barefoot Farmer in Samsula, which is about 30 minutes southeast of my hometown. There we picked up some beautiful squash, purple beets, cauliflower and rainbow carrots. This farm is 3rd generation and family owned.
Following the Barefoot Farmer, we were scheduled to meet The Farmer’s Wife from whom Cheryl procures fresh raw milk. We were a little ahead of schedule so we stopped to drop off the roosters at their new home before swapping dollars for milk.
As Cheryl was putting the roosters in a cage, I noticed smoke coming out from under her hood. Now, I would have panicked in this situation. Not Cheryl! She was cool as a cucumber. She called the repair shop to let them know we were on the way. She also called the milk lady and diverted her to Wild Hare so the milk could be immediately refrigerated. Cheryl arranged for a rental so we could carry on with our day. All this scheduling and rescheduling happened in the 15 minutes it took us to drop off her car. I’m telling you, this woman doesn’t skip a beat! Within minutes the rental agent picked us up at the repair shop and shortly thereafter we were hooked up with a Ford F-150. Cheryl was a bit shocked that the Ford was a truck (she’d never driven one before that day), but took to the wheel like any seasoned big rig mama. Even with this little diversion we were still ahead of schedule so decided to stop for lunch.
On the Road Again
With full bellies and settled nerves, it was time to hit the road again. This time we headed to R & B Farms in Melbourne, then on to The Farm at Rockledge, which is about an hour to an hour and a half south from where we had lunch. Here I was introduced to produce I’d never seen before. In addition to the familiar kale and chard, we picked up some peppers in every color imaginable. Have you ever seen purple peppers? I hadn’t until I joined Cheryl on her farm-to-table jaunt. We also picked up some baby eggplant. Too cute!
Next we were headed to Natural Farm and Educational Center, located in Groveland, which is clear across the state. It was getting to be a long day for this little non-farm girl. Nevertheless, onward we went. (Meanwhile Cheryl is still cool as a cucumber). We loaded up the truck with tomatoes and potted veggie plants. Before heading back to the shop to offload the goodies, Cheryl wanted to stop at a farm she had not yet done business with. It was just down the road from Natural Farm. We were able to find The Food Forest at Beautiful Bamboo Farm with no trouble. This is a small farm run by a husband and wife and sits on 2 ½ acres. Their mainstay is bamboo plants in all varieties and sizes. (I now have an appreciation for the bamboo that grows wild on my property.) In addition to bamboo, they are propagating a food forest which, in layman’s terms, is a garden that mimics woodland forests and features perennial edibles. This area of the farm is a work in progress, but it is impressive to see what this couple is doing to promote natural living.
Are we there yet?
We got back to Wild Hare Kitchen and Garden Emporium where we painstakingly, but ever so gently, off-loaded the day’s catch and took the food inside where it was bundled, put into baskets or the cooler and priced. Cheryl still had one more stop to make, but by this time it was 7:00 p.m. and this little girl was pooped. How she does this by herself every Friday is beyond me. I guess I should double up on my spinach intake.
This, my friends is how one amazing woman brings farm fresh produce and dairy products to your table. She also carries GMO free organic seeds, fresh organic honey, homemade jams and canned (jarred) goods. Oh – one more thing. Cheryl believes in recycling and refuses to use plastic. Paper bags and baskets are used to package your produce after purchase. Milk is stored in bottles and the egg crates are the old-fashioned kind. Wild Hare Kitchen and Garden Emporium not only supports our farmers, but the environment as well.
H.O.W can you do your part?
You can help our environment and the local economy by supporting the farmers in your area. Buy organic. Buy fresh. Keep it close to home. Help our local farmers thrive. In the end we all win.
Shauna L Bowling
Refining, Defining or Rhyming
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Charlie Daniels - The American Farmer
© 2013 Shauna L Bowling