Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Apple Varieties Disappear from U.S. Markets : Slow Food USA

Hey guys, sorry for the lapse in posting. I've been super busy with my "real job" but I have a few posts lined up ready to roll. I found this on Alice Waters FB page, she's the founder/chef of Chez Panisse in Berkely, CA and renaissance woman of all things local & sustainable. An inspiraion to me and many.

This article is about the dissapearing varieties of heirloom apples. Heirloom varieties of fruits & vegetable are such amazing things. Each of them endemic to a specific region or genetic line, most times considered "ugly" since they dont often look like the commercial varieties that have been raised for looks rather than taste (sounds ridiculous doesn't it? but very true) but absolutely BURSTING with flavor. Here in the Redland we can get many strains of Heirloom tomatoes (my favorites are the green zebras) but thats a whole nother post ;).

Till next time, keep it local, keep it fresh, keep it good

Apple Varieties Disappear from U.S. Markets : Slow Food USA

Monday, November 1, 2010

What is the Redland and why should I care...

There it is folks, what you are looking at is a fistful of South Florida's finest agricultural soil. It's rich reddish hue is what gives this region of South Miami-Dade County its name, The Redland. 

This fertile little corner of Florida produces lots of commercial crops such as tomatoes, green beans, strawberries and corn. But tucked away in the back roads amongst the shady groves and lush foliage there are small farms and farmers dedicated to more exotic fare. Heirloom tomatoes, Carambola, Dragonfruit, Mango, Avocado, Lychee, Longan...the list goes on and on. Many of these farms are operating organically, others practice conventional agriculture methods but regardless of their means of production the variety of this region is breathtaking and delicious.

Roughly the area we are talking about

In future posts I'll be including a lot of photographs, a lot of times it'll just be a "photo safari" edition with small captions. The idea is that you get inspired and excited to come out and explore for yourself. One of the good things about driving around out there is that the roads are built like a grid, like the rest or Miami so you can't really get lost.

I have a deep rooted appreciation for agriculture in all its forms. It's a family tradition. My grandfather was a rancher and farmer. A quiet and stoic man who still rode horses well into his 80's and tended his land until his 90's. An important figure in the islands agricultural community and avid contributor to the sport of Paso Fino horses, he made agriculture his purpose and livelihood just as generations before him had. 
Dulce Sueño, legendary Paso Fino stallion belonging to Genaro Cautiño.
Dulce Sueño is buried on my grandfathers ranch, La Tuna in Guayama, Puerto Rico
My dad (here on the left in his Cajun party get up) left the farm for the wilds of International Development Banking but he still carries that love for dirt and horses he knew as a kid and kept it alive for us. With visits to the ranch, stories of the glory days and wily moustache he helped instill the appreciation of tradition and all things agrarian.

Unfortunately in our native Puerto Rico they pay more to "plant cement" than to plant crops and traditional farmers and ranchers have found it increasingly more difficult to stave off developers and urban encroachment. In the case of my family, the family farm was sold and a development of cement boxes was slapped upon it, smothering generations of growth and harvest.

The real estate bubble has left many empty promises in it's wake. Half finished housing developments lay empty and useless on previously fertile farm land. It's a sad site to see. I hope we learned something from all that, and hope we don't further encroach on the things that make this area different. It's not the shopping center with the Walgreens and the Publix on every corner that give this corner of Miami its character.
A snapshot of the agricultural border close to Homestead.

One of the many unfinished housing developments in southern Miami-Dade Co.
Will it spread? Agricultural lands adjacent to new residential construction
It's the remnants of generations past that connect new and old Floridians to this unique area, the small farms, the surviving architecture of our pioneers, the diversity of the land and its people and the ingenuity with which they make a living.  I'll take that over a drive-thru Starbucks any day.  Development is fine and good, when its done responsibly. Lets do it in a way that makes sense and reinforces our lives and how we relate to our community. When we understand and appreciate something we are less likely to destroy it.

This blog is my attempt to share my love for the area in the hopes that we all come to appreciate it and do what we can to conserve it. This blog will feature local produce, producers and maybe even some recipes on how to get the most from this local goodness. We'll explore the many faces and cultures that shape this unique area and we'll also feature some of the unique agribusiness operations in the area such as ornamental fish farms, orchid nurseries and bonsai gardens. So in a nutshell, it'll be a virtual tour of one of our favorite places. I hope you enjoy the ride.