Uncle G and the gang recently took a trip to SW Florida. The weather in Iowa was 100+ degrees, so we thought we’d go somewhere a little cooler. The weather in Florida actually was a few degrees cooler, and, are you ready for this, there was rain! We almost forgot what rain was.
While we were in Florida we thought it would be cool to visit a couple of local farms. Life’s too busy to visit other farms while we’re at home so we do it while on vacation. We left the kids at the beach and took the opportunity to explore something different and keep learning.
Stop #1 was Asbury Acres. We found them on LocalHarvest.org and reached out to Shane and Dee to see if we could come visit. They agreed so we took a 45 minute drive from the Gulf to the other side of I-75. In Iowa our farm, like many, is surrounded by fields of beans and corn, Asbury Acres is also surrounded by fields but they are used to graze cows. It’s also worth pointing out that these fields and just about all the other land in Florida can harbor snakes, gators, panthers, bears, wild pigs, and any number of other creatures that can eat you. (Uncle G isn’t so sure that giving up winter is worth this price) Back to the story! When we pulled up to their farm we were greeted with free range pigs, chickens, and ducks. How cool is that? Their farm has two large ponds (one with gators and one without) (hopefully) so having ducks seems like a natural fit. Shane and Dee were awesome hosts and, I’m not gonna lie, we have looked at pot belly pigs for our farm and have already ordered some ducks as a direct result of this visit. One of the coolest things about this farm is how similar their story is to ours. They’ve tried lots of different things and naturally found what fits for them.
Stop #2 was Circle C Farm. We found them by searching for Farmer’s Markets in the area which brought us to their retail store and eventually to the farm. Kind of like us, Nicole and Manny jumped in and have been learning ever since. Nicole took us and another family on a tour of their farm. We loved their pig pasture, all their livestock guardian dogs, the cows and sheep, their pastured chicken set up (already copied their brooder set up), and got a fleeting look at a couple of guardian donkeys. One of the most unique parts of Circle C Farm is the on site USDA processing of beef, pork, and poultry. This is HUGE! Being able to process their own livestock, on their schedule, and being able to offer fresh product to area chefs is a game changer. I believe Nicole said other 3 or 4 other farms in the NATION have a similar setup. She spent tons of time with us explaining the process, showing us the equipment, and answering questions long after the official tour had ended.
You might be wondering how different Florida is from Iowa. The answer…its not too different. All three of us (Uncle G’s Farm, Asbury Acres, and Circle C Farm) have tremendous respect for our animals. The farming practices we use are meant to keep our animals safe, healthy, and allow nature to do its job. We all go above and beyond the requirements for “Organic” certification, but none of us are certified. We all have dogs that “work” on the farm, be it guarding livestock or being a companion for the animals. We all have similar struggles too. For instance, there are only 24 hours in a day! Seriously. And there is ALWAYS something that needs attention, and probably money. There are also predators, water woes, and management of extreme temperatures. But we are all passionate about what we do and get creative in solving problems.
We love our farm life and sharing the experiences of our farm life with others. We want to find a way to make “Uncle G’s South” a regular farm life reality from January to March:) (Uncle G, for the record, is happy to visit Florida but isn’t sure about living there for three months).