Vizcaya Dinner for Farmers Recognizes South Florida Farmers
In a growing season marked by record rainfall and crippling storms and the Oriental fruit fly quarantine, South Florida farmers took an evening off to be recognized for their hard work at the inaugural Dinner for Farmers Jan. 26, sponsored by Vizcaya Museum and Gardens and Edible South Florida. They were invited to an al fresco dinner at Vizcaya Village, enjoying local produce and drinks prepared by some of Miami's best chefs and mixologists. Seven community farmers were honored for their efforts.
“I have a great admiration for the farmers of Miami-Dade County,” said county agricultural manager Charles LaPradd, one of the judges. “They grow more product types than anywhere else in the country in a challenging climate while battling tremendous foreign competition and a new invasive pest every month, all done with a smile and without subsidies.”
Singled out for awards were seven local farms:
- Sowers and Shakers – Recognizes innovative and sustainable farming practice: PNS Farms, Alice Pena
- Cover Crop – These farmers use social media to cover the happenings of their farms, fertilizing their ever-growing community of followers and supporters: Little River Cooperative, Tiffany Noe and Muriel Olivares
- Enriched Soil – These farms enrich the soil of their community by putting their farms to work for a larger cause (social justice): Verde Community Farm, Chuck Lyons
- Homesteader – Honors the creative problem-solving that all farmers, like pioneers, need to use when problems crop up: Bee Heaven Farm, Margie and Nick Pikarsky
- Plowing Through – Focusing on experimentation and the determined cultivation of something difficult to grow: Paradise Farms Organic, Gabriele Marewski
- Growing it Forward – Allowing the public to participate and engage with the farm’s mission through educational programming or otherwise: Three Sisters Farm, Jonathan Gambino
- It Takes a Village – Part of every village is made up of those who are not direct residents but are still relied upon whenever the need arises. It takes a village to feed a village. We honor those who support farmers: Urban Oasis Project, Art Friedrich
Awards were reviewed by three judges: LaPradd; Bruce Ozga, Dean of Culinary Education at Johnson & Wales University; and Jim Stribling, Director, Preston B. Bird/Mary Heinlein Fruit & Spice Park. The awards, kinetic mobile sculptures, were created by Marcela Noriega of Art for Good, a nonprofit dedicated to helping farmworkers prevent heart-related illness.
The many challenges faced by farmers were noted by the judges. “We are sadly losing valuable farming land in South Florida,” said Ozga. “Preservation and care for the land is key to our future.” Added Stribling: “I can appreciate the fine line that must be walked between living the life (some would say calling) that one feels passionately about – and deep passion is required to try year-round organic farming in the subtropics – and generating the funds needed to maintain that life or calling in the long term.”
Chefs Turn Produce into Fabulous Dishes
Many of the farms contributed produce, which a variety of local chefs used to create dishes for the evening’s progressive dinner.
Guests were led through various stations set up throughout the Vizcaya Village, each featuring rustic tables by Unearthed Vintage and décor by Anthologie Co. Floristry and Event Design. Top chefs donated their time and talents to turn this local, seasonal produce into delicious dishes.
- Kris Wessel, of the soon-to-open Wessel’s Southern Tropical Bar B-Q, made Turmeric-Caimito Glazed Heritage Pork with Cassava Biscuit and Callaloo
- Jimmy Carey of Jimmy’Z Kitchen served Crispy Plantain Spider with Homestead Avocado Mousse, Pulled Mojo Pork and Pickled Onions
- Niven Patel of Michael's Genuine dished out Roasted Carrot Soup with Crispy Curry Leaves and Allspice
- Melanie Stewart of Crown Wine & Spirits devised Florida Greens Salad with Fresh Chioggia Beets
- Aaron Brooks of EDGE, Steak & Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel Miami, served Fire-Roasted Mojo Chicken with Black Sapote Mole and Grilled Flatbread with Carambola Habanero Hot Sauce
- Venoy Rogers of Essensia, Jules Kitchen, Wunderbar, created Citrus-Infused Natural Chicken with Wilted Arugula, Heirloom Tomatoes, Grilled Red Onion, Lemony Potatoes, Caimito Mustard and Bok Choy
Desserts also showcased local products:
Contributing farms included Bee Heaven Farm; Florida Keys Honey; Fresh Gardens; GS Dreams Honey; Jerry Is Here; LNB Groves; Paradise Farms; Ready-to-Grow Gardens; Seasons Farm Fresh; Three Sisters Farm and V and B Farms. Cocktails from mixologist Gabe Urrutia of Beam Suntory – with help from Gio Gutierrez of Chat Chow TV – featured fresh tropical fruit juices. They were accompanied by beer from Wynwood's Concrete Beach Brewery and coffee from new Miami roaster Per’la Specialty Roasters.