Fresh from the Farm: An Agri-Tour of Martin County, Fla.
By Vanessa Caceres
Martin County, located in Southeast Florida’s Treasure Coast, has a lot to offer foodies and others interested in farm-to-table and other agricultural experiences.
Agriculture is big business here, particularly its citrus and cattle industries, both of which are evident throughout the county, which contributes to Florida’s standing as one of the nation’s top cattle states in the U.S.
Martin County offers some personalized ways to experience and enjoy “fresh from Florida” agriculture. Check out these destinations for your own flavorful tour. Call or check online in advance to find out what’s open; some of these businesses are closed for a brief time in the summer.
For history buffs, a stop at the Stuart Heritage Museum, a former feed and supply store in Stuart’s downtown area, is a must. You can discover all kinds of historical facts about the area, including its beginnings as a pineapple-growing center in the 1800s. There were even efforts to make the area the “Pineapple Capital of the World.” However, that dream got wiped out by large-scale freezes in the area in the early 1900s. (There’s still an annual pineapple festival in Jensen Beach.) The museum also shares information about Martin County’s once-booming chrysanthemum flower business.
Continue your ag history tour by snapping pics of downtown Stuart’s murals, many of which feature the area’s farming history.
On Sunday mornings, the Stuart Green Market, held on downtown Stuart’s waterfront, offers an array of in-season produce, local honey, fresh-baked goods, local meat, and arts and crafts. Ag items will vary seasonally, and you’ll find a larger selection in the winter and spring when Florida benefits from a sunny climate while the rest of the U.S. shivers. Even in the summer, though, you can find vendors selling items like Florida-grown dragonfruit, with samples available.
Get in on the Ground Floor
If you’ve never seen an urban farm, then you need to make it on over to Ground Floor Farm, located on an acre of space in the middle of Stuart. Ground Floor is not only a farm, but a restaurant, specialty market -- and an art space, with colorful murals outside that are perfect for your IG feed. “We also serve as a community hub, hosting all sorts of social, educational, and cultural events,” said co-owner Jackie Vitale. These include kitchen workshops, summer camps, festivals, and markets. Meals served at the restaurant are built around what’s growing on the farm and on products like pickles, sourdough bread, and kimchi, also all produced at Ground Farm. “It’s a lovely setup where you are literally surrounded by food production from every angle,” Vitale said.
Fun at the Farm
Located in Palm City, the 10-acre, solar-powered Shadowood Farm & Organic Food Garden opened in 2010 to focus on organic fruits and vegetables and to teach people how to grow their own. It has individual garden spaces, how-to workshops, Florida native plants, and serves as a venue for weddings. There are also occasional farm-to-table dinners, yoga and meditation events, and more, said co-owners Bob and Sarah Fenton. While visiting a place like Shadowood may not be the first place you’d think of while on vacation in Florida, there’s a great reason to visit. “People from northern climates are typically visiting the state of Florida in the winter months when vegetables are not growing in their home state,” Sarah said. “Northern food gardeners and food enthusiasts marvel when they learn that the Florida growing season is the total opposite of theirs.”
Located in Martin County’s Indiantown, Kai-Kai Farm grows produce for South Florida chefs but is also open as a farm-to-table wedding, concert, and event venue. In fact, the farm’s Kai-Kai Music Garden hosts a series of seasonal luncheons and dinners with area chefs. Kai-Kai also offers cooking classes. “There is nothing like listening to a live band while enjoying farm-to-table fresh food,” said Ashley Robinson, of Stuart.
At restaurants like Stuart’s District Table & Bar, you’ll find an emphasis on farm-to-table, with beautiful plates like cracked conch tacos, Belle Glade street corn, seasonal oysters, and blackened gulf shrimp with grits, pimento cheese, and slab bacon. “Local businesses like District Table and Gilbert’s Coffee Bar take pride in supporting local farms, and I appreciate that strong sense of agricultural community,” Robinson said. “More and more, I’m seeing locally made artisanal breads, fresh in-season fruits and vegetables, and homemade cheeses from our local farms featured on local menus.” Several other Martin County restaurants serve locally caught fish and seafood… yum.
A juicy pick
Get what’s fresh and in-season at 710 U-pick, located in Indiantown and open seasonally.