Gabriele Marewski, of Paradise Farms, moved to Homestead in 1984 with a degree in agronomy from the University of Maryland (her home state). Fifteen years later, she purchased five acres of abandoned avocado grove and set about cleaning, plowing, and planting it into the certified organic Paradise Farms. She is perhaps most renowned for her Dinner in Paradise series. These all-organic feasts, cooked by top local restaurant chefs, are served under the stars in Paradise's pastoral setting — and have become quite popular since debuting in 2005. (For the 2008-09 schedule, go to www.paradisefarms.net.)
1. What's being harvested on the Homestead farms this summer?
Well, mangoes. And mangoes and more mangoes [laughs]. Most everybody shuts down for the summer, but we continue because of the specialty stuff we do. Right now we have sapodilla and mamey that I got from other farmers. Coconuts are always available, and carambola will be around in another month or so. We have lots of calabaza flowers, and all the edible flowers. The later crop of litchis — Brewsters — will be here for another couple of weeks. And we've got little red cotton candy fruit, which tastes like cotton candy — literally. Michael's and the Loews South Beach are using it.
2. What other restaurants do you sell to?
My first accounts were with Loews and Wish. We deliver to the Ritz-Carlton in Coconut Grove (Bizcaya) and South Beach (DiLido Beach Club); chef Jeff McInnis makes an incredible Paradise Farms salad with all of our greens and edible flowers. Also Casa Tua, Emeril's, of course Michael's, Table 8 ... and Escopazzo — my favorite because [chef Giancarla Bodoni] is organic.
3. Any favorite cookbooks?
I don't cook [laughs]. Christopher Siragusa does my cooking. He's vegan and is one of those people who can whip up dinner for 10 people, with no notice, in an hour. He's amazing. He also helps about on the farm and does all of our edible flower arrangements for the Dinner in Paradise series.
4. What are some issues facing local farmers down there?
Finding good legal labor is always an issue. And fuel costs are certainly an issue too, because we have to deliver. I've now added a delivery charge of two whole dollars per customer [laughs] ... which I may have to re-evaluate.
5. You're a big believer in people doing small-scale farming in their yards, right?
It's not rocket science. It's a simple thing, just four ingredients: the seed, the soil, water, and love. That's basically it. Anybody can grow their own food.
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