You may or may not have read our recaps of our adventure with the Slow Food First Coast Tour de Farm back in November. If you didn’t, you can check them out here, here, and here. Tour de Farm was a wonderful experience that really opened our eyes to the amazing things happening in our local farming community. We visited five farms that day, all of which were unique in their own way. When the dust settled, we were left wanting to see even more local farms. So when Urban Folk Farm recently invited us out to take a look around their 7-acre farm, we jumped at the chance. Urban Folk Farm had around 500 or so visitors to their property on the day of Tour de Farm, and it was definitely one that we were eager to check out.
Urban Folk Farm, located on the Westside off of Normandy Boulevard, is a relatively new addition to the Northeast Florida farm scene. The owners first started planting in early 2014 and since then, they have become a regular participant in the Beaches Green Market. They can also now be found on Saturday mornings at the Riverside Arts Market. The farm itself is charming and idyllic, set back off the road at the end of a long dirt driveway. The iconic big red barn is a cheerful greeting for visitors, despite its weathered state.
The owners of the farm are seriously some of the nicest and most genuine people I’ve ever met. Alina (a self-proclaimed “city girl”) and Simon (a Netherlander with experience in dairy farming) are the two hard-working folks who run the farm. They switched gears back in 2014, leaving their jobs in Miami behind to take up farming here in Jacksonville. Using some of the experience that Simon has from his background in dairy cattle, the two are learning and figuring things out as they go. They were happy to show us around and tell us a little more about what they do and what they have planned for their farm as it continues to grow.
The farm is split into two fields – a larger one in the back and a smaller one on the front of the property, just off of the road. The larger of the two fields is for their seasonal vegetables – and they grow a huge variety of them. Since Urban Folk Farm is still a pretty young farm, the strategy right now is to try out a lot of different fruits and vegetables and see what does best. That means a lot of trial and error, as well as a lot of variety in what they produce. The back field has vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and lettuce, just to name a few. They have even tried their hand at beets, but haven’t had much luck with those yet. Alina and Simon are learning the ups and downs that go along with holistic, pesticide-free farming. They have had a few run-ins with pests and bugs, which damaged some of their produce in the beginning. And the unpredictable weather this year has been tough on a lot of their crops, as it has to a lot of local farmers. But Urban Folk Farm is still producing some beautiful vegetables right now, especially lettuces.
The front field is home to Alina and Simon’s fruit and nut trees. Again, they have a wide variety of trees planted, from plums and persimmons, to blood oranges and figs. Alina is excited to also try her hand at growing olive trees. Just like with the seasonal vegetables, there is a lot of experimenting going on in the new fruit orchard. The saplings are young and small now, but once the orchard is matured the front field will be beautifully lush and shaded. Alina is hoping this will create a nice space in which to hold farm-to-table dinners, one of the goals she has in mind for the farm’s future.
In addition to the fruits and vegetables on the farm, Alina and Simon also have a few free-range chickens, a small permaculture garden, and their trusty farm dog Jack. Jack accompanied us on our tour of the property, happily wagging his tail as he proudly showed us around “his” farm. While the farm is still a work in progress, Urban Folk Farm is off to a strong start. Alina and Simon have big plans for their little piece of land. They hope to eventually set up a farm stand closer to the road, allowing passers-by easier and quicker access to their produce. They are also still in the process of cleaning up and renovating a few key features on the property, which was left in a state of disrepair by previous owners. Their goal is to be able to invite the community out to the farm on a more regular basis, to host farm-to-table events, and to hold educational programs for local kids. Simon and Alina are passionate about community outreach. Their vision is to have a strong connection with the community and to educate folks on the importance of getting your food locally. They hope that their farm can continue to grow and be a benefit to our entire community, providing affordable, fresh, healthy food to folks all over the area.
With the hard work and determination that I saw during my visit with Alina and Simon on the farm, I don’t think they will have a problem making all those things happen. And a little hospitality goes a long way. You will be hard-pressed to find friendlier, more genuine people than Simon and Alina. I felt instantly welcomed on their farm – almost like I was family. Having grown up in the backwoods farm country of North Carolina, I felt right at home and was transported back to my childhood days.
If you have a chance, stop by and pay these two wonderful people a visit. They hold farm stand hours on the farm a few days a week – usually Monday, Tuesday, and Friday from 10am-7pm and Thursday from 2am-7pm. Alina will typically send out a weekly email with a list of what she has available along with the prices. You can place your order via email and let them know when you will be by to pick up your goodies. Produce is cut and ready for you right before you arrive to pick up. You can’t get much fresher fruits and vegetables than that. You can visit the Urban Folk Farm website to join the email list. You can also look for Alina and Simon at the Riverside Arts Market on Saturdays from 10am-1pm and then at the Beaches Green Market on Saturday afternoons from 2pm-5pm at Jarboe Park.
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.