As an environmental professional with a Master's and a seven-year career, I have a thorough understanding of the ethical, environmental and economic pros and cons of buying local produce. I am also familiar with the environmental and health benefits of choosing organic produce. And, while I am by no means a subject matter expert, I am sufficiently educated to know that sourcing local and organic produce is my ultimate goal as a consumer. That said, I am also enough of a realist to understand that I cannot always source local and/or organic produce due to a variety of reasons (cost, availability, etc).
When I was invited to visit Three Sisters Farm in the Redlands last weekend with the Miami Media Bloggers, I was super excited. I have been spending a lot of time exploring south Miami-Dade recently—remember our recent visit to Patch of Heaven Gardens?—and I love its quiet remoteness; its slower paced lifestyle; its beautiful, verdant setting. Plus, Three Sisters Farm's commitment to growing organic and sourcing to local restaurants, including the Ritz Carlton Fort Lauderdale's Burlock Coast, appeals to the local-minded environmentalist in me. (It doesn't hurt that they lured me with promises of delicious brunch.)
From the moment I received my invitation, I couldn't wait to share my experience with you. The Redlands have a lot of hidden gems like Three Sisters Farm that make Miami super awesome and—because they're out of sight, out of mind—we often forget that they're there, ripe for us to explore. Much to my surprise, when I excitedly shared a photo during our tour of the farm, I was bombarded with messages of disappointment that this blog was supporting an organization whose owner last year condemned our local culinary community.
I was extremely shocked to receive your messages. As a local blogger, I have a pretty good pulse on local news, but somehow this story evaded me until you brought it to my attention. My choice to visit the farm was independent and without knowledge of Chef Gambino's comments. I want to reiterate that this blog has always been and remains an avenue to support, not tear down Miami's people, places and businesses. I therefore do not condone his incendiary language. That said, as an environmental professional that works daily to change people's behavior toward the better, I can certainly understand the passion behind his message.
Three Sisters Farm works hard to grow produce that does not depend on the high volume of fertilizer and pesticides other Florida farms have to use to yield species (i.e., tomatoes) that our local soils and climate are not intended to grow. Doing so comes with certain challenges—for example, Three Sisters Farm is slowly migrating their crops toward tropical fruit like jackfruit and lychee that thrives here even if it is not as lucrative as other fruits. The people who work at Three Sisters Farm, like the "original third sister" Rachael Middleton, have a lot of love for the farm and are devoted to doing what is best for the health and environment of the farm and our community. From what I experienced, the fervor behind Chef Gambino's statements, while misguided and generalized, comes from a place of love for the farm's mission and a desperate desire for Miami's restaurateurs to strive for the ideal of buying not only local, but also organic.
There is a lot of good in our culinary community that I would like Chef Gambino to recognize. There is also a lot of good in Three Sisters Farm's work and their monthly Brunch and Tours that I want those of you who are disappointed by his comments to recognize. The property is beautiful—their treehouse reminded me of the Costa Rican jungle—and the people who work it are extremely passionate about what they do. Not to mention they grow quality produce without compromising the health of the land and of our bodies. Whether you're looking to do a quick pick-up of local and organic produce, you want to learn about eating local and organic, or you just need a quick getaway, a trip to Three Sisters Farm is well worth it.