Over the past two weeks, we have shared with you our experience with the recent Tour de Farm event, sponsored by Edible Northeast Florida and Slow Food First Coast. Knowing where your food comes from is becoming increasingly important and supporting local farmers is just as crucial. This event was the perfect opportunity to learn more about our local farms and to see for ourselves where some of the food we eat is grown. We started our day with a stop at Berry Good Farms, followed by a visit to Down To Earth Farm, and then on to Eat Your Yard Jax and Congaree and Penn.
At this point in the day, after visiting and exploring four farms, we were tired and it was nearing the end of the Tour de Farm. We debated calling it a day and heading home, but we decided to head a little further north to take in one last farm – NaVera Farms. NaVera Farms, located in Callahan on Sauls Road, is one of the area’s leading all-natural, holistic farms. Together with the Farm Life Foundation, NaVera Farms offers educational tours, workshops, and programs aimed at teaching people the value of sustainable and holistic living. Those principles can be seen in practice all over the farm. NaVera Farms focuses heavily on raising animals in a gentle and humane way, allowing each animal to roam freely throughout their space on the farm rather than being caged up in confined space. Animals are fed an all-natural organic diet, free from any pesticides or chemicals. This gentle, loving approach is definitely working, because these were some of the happiest, healthiest farm animals I have ever seen. And they produce some very tasty eggs and milk, too. Farm fresh eggs and dairy from NaVera Farms can be found at Native Sun or you can get it directly from the farm, which will give you the perfect opportunity to tour the farm for yourself.
We started our tour with a walk around the barnyard. We walked past some raised planters, through the gate, and into the barnyard. We were immediately greeted by a very affectionate duck, a goose named Daffy, and an incredibly happy (and huge) pig. Obviously, this farm was a favorite of the day with my son, who was just blown away to be able to interact with the animals in such an up close and personal way. His face lit up and he was equal parts excited and terrified when an alpaca walked right up to him and looked him in the eye. The alpaca and his squad then trotted away to the other side of the barnyard to mingle with the free-range chickens. There were also goats, miniature horses, cows, and some very cocky roosters. We were also tickled to see a group of farm cats coolly hanging out in the barn, no doubt waiting for a chance to do some “pest control” around the property. Our favorite animal was the farm’s donkey, aptly named “Eeyore” thanks to his shy, aloof disposition. He was hanging out with the hens when we walked by and he held back for a few minutes, checking us out from afar. He eventually worked up the courage to come a little closer and investigate, and my heart just melted…such a sweet little guy.
Needless to say, we were so glad that we decided to press on and visit one more farm. We wrapped up our visit to NaVera Farms with a couple of wraps from Native Sun, who were onsite with healthy options (and some very yummy molasses cookies). I had the Farmer Wrap, a vegan option with hummus, lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, carrots, sprouts, sunflower seeds, and house dressing. It was a fresh and delicious combination of ingredients – certainly worth a trip to my local Native Sun store to pick up another one. I also grabbed a jar of raw local honey from the folks at the Stubbees Honey booth. Jason Stubblefield, the young entrepreneurial force behind the Stubbees brand, was there to give us some very useful honey-related tips and to let us sample some of their delicious raw and creamed honey. Their raw honey is life changing. Let me tell you, since bringing that honey home, I have put it on nearly everything I’ve eaten – drizzled on apple slices, spread on biscuits, stirred into coffee. Delicious. The honey has a fruity, earthy, floral taste to it that I just love. Check out Stubbees honey – seriously.
But anyway, I digress. Our visit to NaVera Farms was the perfect way to end our Tour de Farm experience. We are already counting down the days until Tour de Farm 2016. It was such a great opportunity to discover some of the area’s local farms and to pull together folks from across the farming community. And the five farms we toured were just a small sampling of the many local farms that participated in the tour. Even though many of these farms are very different and unique, they all share the same goal – to provide high quality, locally-grown, fresh ingredients and to make these products accessible to all of us. And you don’t have to wait until next year’s tour to see these farms for yourself. Many offer tours and are more than happy to show folks around and answer any questions that come their way. Most of our local farms also participate in some of the farmers markets in the area. Products from a few farms can also be found in local health stores and shops. Many of these hard-working farms provide ingredients to some of the best restaurants in Jacksonville and St. Augustine. Their fresh ingredients are what help make some of our favorite dishes taste so incredible, and now we have a better idea of where this food comes from. Please do yourself a favor and make an effort to get to know some of these local farmers. Seek out their fresh offerings. Learn more about where our food comes from. Support the hard working people who grow the food that we love to eat.
For this review we welcome a member of our own JRR family: Rhonda Kovar is a former call center manager turned stay-at-home mom. She grew up in the heart of North Carolina and moved to Florida after getting hitched in 2002. She is a graduate of Lenoir-Rhyne University and a lover of all things crafty, musical, or edible. Rhonda loves finding new and delicious ways to turn her two tiny picky eaters into future foodies. You can follow her on Instagram.