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• “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.”
Helped gain respect
With all this going on, they still emphasize their work with chefs.“That has helped us gain respect,” Darrin says. “One chef took a chance on us, then others said, ‘That’s incredible, where are you getting that?’ That’s how we built relationships.
“We’re consistent; we produce high quality stuff; we’re honest — and if you’re that way, reputable people want to do business with you. Chefs are definitely kind of crazy; they are passionate about what they’re doing. But, we’re passionate about what we’re doing, too, so we can all understand each other.”
The Swanks personally check each box leaving the farm. “If it’s not to my standards, it doesn’t leave the place,” Darrin says. “If anyone has any problem at all with what they get from us, they only have to call Jodi and we will replace the product. It’s that simple.”
Visitors notice right away that the Swank farm is different. The shade house production sets it apart from most others in the area.
“When we started, we knew we needed some kind of protective cover,” Darrin says. “Guys in New Zealand were using this kind of shade house, and we liked it. The cost was about one-fifth that of a plastic greenhouse. I felt confident if we had a hurricane, the wind would go through it. Even if we lost it, I’d rather replace a 50 cents per foot product than a $2.50 per square foot greenhouse plastic product.”
“The cover reduces the light level, and that makes the leaf so much more tender because it’s not being hammered with UV light. It expands the season, too. We can go from September until July 4. When it rains, it’s not as heavy; the rain droplets become more of a mist.”
They keep insect problems to a minimum by releasing beneficial predator insects for natural control. Some crops, like sweet corn, tomatoes and pepper, which need full sun, do grow outside.