Meet Ken Ryan, Winner of the Innovative Farmer Award

Ken RyanFarmer Ken Ryan runs Herban Gardens in North Fort Myers, Florida. He is one of three winners for this year’s Innovative Farmer Award. Congratulations!!

Ken is passionate about growing high quality food plants. His North Fort Myers farm has a total of 5 acres, but actual acreage used is ½ an acre with everything grown in containers. The main focus of the business is micro-green production but herbs and edible flowers are also produced.  Ryan began his farm operation in New Hampshire in 1985 but in 1999 he moved his farm operation to North Fort Myers, Florida.

The farm uses containers for all crops grown on the farm. The reasons for this include reducing the amount of land used for the operation, control and conserve water, and minimize weeds. Most of the crops grown are cut and cut again so there are several harvests from the same space.

The farm uses few off farm products as Ken Ryan 2possible and practice recycling and re-use of materials.  Vermi-compost and vermi-compost tea are made on the farm, and are widely used for providing nutrients for the container growing system.

To this day Ken’s focus has been on quality, not quantity. When selling to high-end restaurants Ryan emphasizes the need to develop a relationship with the chefs so that they can trust each other. His clients have relied on his farm to deliver the highest quality product, and by harvesting the day before, and often the morning of delivery, they get the freshest products available. The farm’s direct-marketing uses a planned route system that takes food distribution into consideration, so that even at this small scale, the carbon foot print is reduced to the largest degree possible.

Future plans include putting up several hoop houses, expanding the existing shadehouse, and to grow exotic culinary mushrooms in order to add to the more than 80 varieties of micro-vegetables and herbs produced. Additionally, farmer Ken would like to pass on the farm to his two loyal employees, who are young beginner farmers, ages 21 and 17 years old.

Ken has collaborated extensively with the University of Florida, IFAS Extension Office Ken Ryan 3and became part of the the Agriculture and Natural Resources Advisory Committee (ANRAC) in 2005.  He is also an active member of the Southwest Florida Small Farmers Network. His farm has hosted numerous workshops and he enjoys sharing his expertise with fellow farmers and consumers, especially the young.

Take the time to congratulate Ken at the conference and learn more from him!

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