What is in this article?:
• “I picked the crazy stuff to grow, the specialty stuff. I figured chefs would be into it. I had 35 products, and invited chefs out to see what we were doing. One started buying, and from there, it just took off. Chefs from Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties got interested; anybody doing farm-to-table got interested in what we had.”
Darrin and Jodi Swank stay busy growing vegetables under shade, supplying their Community Supported Agriculture customers with high-quality produce. A pair of the unlikeliest farmers you’ll ever run into, the couple has been working their place at Loxahatchee, Fla., since 1999.
Neither grew up on a farm but both had a passionate interest in making things grow. Darrin, whose father was a Washington, D.C.-area police officer, moved from Maryland to Florida in 1990.
“I had no clue I was going to do this — not at all,” he says. “I did notice the agriculture going on here, and it seemed local farmers were getting murdered on prices. I heard one bad story after another about it.”
After meeting Jodi in 1992, they began wondering how food might be produced more competitively on small acreage. They began reading everything they could find about hydroponics, and what they heard about hydroponically produced leaf lettuce particularly impressed them. They visited Walter Ross, the Lake Worth-based owner of Farmhouse Tomatoes, who grows hydroponic greenhouse heirloom tomatoes.
“That was the biggest part of my research,” Darrin says. “I loved what he was doing, but I didn’t want to follow him or compete with him. So, I decided to concentrate on leaf lettuce and develop my own system.”