Redland Ahead Plows Forward at Verde Gardens
Now under new management: Verde Farm, the organic farm and marketplace built on former Homestead Air Force Base land next to Verde Gardens, townhomes for formerly homeless and disabled residents.
Newly rebranded as Redland Community Farm and Market, the 22-acre property was managed by Carrfour Supportive Housing, a nonprofit aimed at combatting homelessness, and receives funding from the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust. Intended to provide fresh produce as well as job skills to the residents at Verde Gardens, the farm, cafe and market have struggled to succeed in recent years, although their commercial kitchen has kept busy. Under farm manager Chuck Lyons, Verde sold produce to local farmers markets and restaurants and set up a CSA, but he left earlier in 2017.
Enter Redland Ahead, a nonprofit formed to support various agricultural programs, including FIU’s Agro-Ecology program. Redland Ahead supports training veterans and underserved populations to become farmers; and training efforts aimed at boosting crop profitability through university and private development of incubators, commercial kitchens and other ventures in the Redland community.
“We’re really going to breathe new life into this,” says Tyra Hearns of Redland Ahead. She says they’re planning to add new customers for the commercial kitchen, which has been used by Munch Thyme, a prepared meals delivery service, and kombucha makers Counter Culture. One is Debra Allen, the owner of Sweet Delights, well known in the South Miami-Dade community for her key lime pie.
Miami-Dade agriculture manager Charles LaPradd says he’s happy to see the property in the hands of “stable, competent, funded” management whose principals are US Army veterans who can work with the nearby Homestead Air Reserve Base community. Other pluses include the new FedEx distribution facility nearby, bringing hundreds of potential new customers to the neighborhood.
Priorities for the new management include new fencing and refrigeration on the farm. The manager is Garfield Jarrett, owner of Cool Runnings organic farm, featured in the winter 2017 issue of edible South Florida. He’s already started planting crops for the winter growing season.
Jarrett plans to sell produce to some of his restaurant customers, including Grown, Burlock Coast, the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, the Hilton Fort Lauderdale and Nikki Beach, and farmers markets. “It’s easy to grow the food,” he says. “The problem is getting the customers to sustain it.”
Because only about eight acres of the property are now used for farming, he hopes to add chickens, goats and sheep into the mix once the fencing is up.
“This project is essential for the community,” he says. “We’re going to do outreach, getting people trained so they can help, learn a trade and skills, not just growing food.”
Grand Opening Celebration
All are invited to their grand opening Fri., Jan. 26 from 5-9. Guests can tour the farm on hay rides, meet the chefs, farmers and staff, watch live graffiti artists, try finger food plus beer and wine supplied by Schnebly Redland Winery. Sponsored by Redland Ahead.
Garfield Jarrett says he’s planting veggies and herbs, including: