Creating a resilient, diversified farm enterprise
Interview with Gabriele Marewski of Paradise Farms
Gabriele Marewski is a pioneer farmer in many ways. Her farm is a great example of a resilient business which has seized opportunities to grow whenever they have arrived. There is much to learn from her business model. Grabriele is one of the keynote speakers for the upcoming Regional Small Farms Conference in Fort Myers, April 1&2, 2016.
Gabriele started Paradise Organic farms in 1999 when she bought an abandoned five-acre farm in Homestead, FL. Gabriele has transformed it into a showcase certified organic boutique farm. Currently the farm grows micro greens, edible flowers, baby greens, a variety of tropical fruits and oyster mushrooms. Paradise Farms sells to the best chefs at high-end restaurants in the Miami area.
Gabriele also pioneered the local Farm-to-Table movement hosting the popular Dinner in Paradise series since 2005. These monthly dinners from December through April raise funds for local not for profits involved in providing food for the under-privileged. Additionally, the farm hosts ceremonies, private events, educational tours and bed and breakfasts guests.
The farm’s business model is unconventional. According to Gabriele, the high level of diversification at the farm responds to one thing: “synchronicity”. “We don’t have a grand plan, when the energy and people show up, then that’s what we do, as long as it is within the farm’s mission” said Gabriele. “Our model is ready, fire, aim; and you just go do it. You see the response and you tweak things. Some things work and some other don’t but it’s a fun journey,” she said.
This creates a very fluid enterprise. New things are pursued, some things are dropped. We are not rigidly attached to things, said Gabriele. One example of this is that the farm does not sell at farmers markets. “We dropped farmers markets as we didn’t have a farmer available to haul everything to the market. We would like to have the market at the farm in the future when the right person shows up to take over that enterprise” she said.
All of this creates a very resilient, diversified farm operation; which sustains nine year round employees. Having a financially viable farm is important, but not the driving force behind the farm’s decisions. For this farmer, her operation means more than just income and profit, it’s about beauty, connection to the land, energy and vibration.
For Gabriele, Florida farmers need to step up their game to take advantage of the huge potential of agritourism. “People want to pay for authentic experiences, not just stuff; and farmers are in the best place to provide those experiences” she said. In her perspective, consumers are such foodies now, they are making the link between their health and what they eat, it’s a whole new world.
Do you want to learn more from Gabriele Marewski?
Then attend the Regional Small Farms Conference in Fort Myers, April 1st and 2nd. Gabriele is one of the keynote speakers at the Conference kick-off event at Buckingham Farms on April 1st, and also one of the speakers at the Agritourism session on April 2nd.
Check out the conference program and register online at www.smallfarmsconf.eventbrite.com. Early bird registration fee is $90 until March 21, and $100 after that, $125 for full conference plus farm-to-table banquet at Buckingham Farms. Registration includes refreshments, lunch, and educational materials.