Ed Chiles, owner of the Chiles Restaurant Group, sampled the produce Friday as he moved through the leafy green vegetables and tomatoes growing in hydroponic stacks at Geraldson Farm Market.
“Now that’s a good tomato. It’s got good acid,” he said approvingly after munching into a red-orange fruit before moving on to Mizuna, a leafy salad vegetable.
“It’s hearty. It’s got good structure,” Chiles said of the Mizuna, a type of mustard green.
Chiles, who has a five-year lease on Gamble Creek Farm and uses its organic produce to supplement the offerings at his three island restaurants, recently opened Geraldson Farm Market at 14950 Golf Course Road to the public.
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The farmers’ market is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Chiles believes the rapidly growing Parrish area, where more than 20,000 homes have been permitted or on the drawing board for the near future, is ready for a market that offers organic and hydroponic produce, farm-fresh eggs, fresh baked bread, local honey and more.
Look for the offerings to continue to grow with other sustainable local staples such as seafood, particularly greystripe mullet, and locally harvested wild hog.
As Chiles continued his walk through the 26-acre farm, Ryan Geraldson made a pitch for Swiss chard, a leafy vegetable that typically has red stalks and green or red leaves.
“You know chard is on the way now. Chard is the new kale,” Geraldson said.
I grew up working on the family farm and this has been my favorite farm experience so far. It’s been an adventure. You get to learn about restaurants and see how passionate everyone is about food.
Ryan Geraldson and his father, Eric, are second- and third-generation farmers who operate Gamble Creek Farm, where organic, hydroponic and conventional row crops are grown.
“I like it. I grew up working on the family farm and this has been my favorite farm experience so far,” Ryan Geraldson said of working with The Chiles Restaurant Group. “It’s been an adventure. You get to learn about restaurants and see how passionate everyone is about food.”
Part of broadening his horizons has been working with the chefs at The Sandbar, Beach House and Mar Vista restaurants and learning what they would like to include on their menus, Geraldson said.
Mark Lindsay, who lives less than three miles from Geraldson Farm Market, dropped in to do a little shopping Friday afternoon.
“It’s awesome to have this in the neighborhood. When I saw that it was open, I thought this is great,” Lindsay said.
Robert Baugh, chief operating officer of Chiles Restaurant Group, was also at Geraldson Farm Market on Friday.
The farm produces crops in hydroponic stacks, in row crops, and through permaculture.
Permaculture is an environmentally friendly practice of developing a natural site using no fertilizer and little water. At Gamble Creek Farm, restaurant kitchen scraps as well as coffee and tea grounds are used to enrich the soil and grow a variety of plants, including turmeric, ginger, lemongrass and more.
It’s an effort to fully use natural resources and stem the flow of material to landfills, Baugh said.
“One of the things that attracted me to this company is this farm,” Baugh said. “I am a restaurant guy, but I love it.”
Baugh points out the Seminole pumpkins growing on the farm and calls them Chiles’ baby.
The pumpkins were key to the survival of Florida’s indigenous people. The plants already are acclimated to Florida weather and produce bounty of blossoms that Chiles’ restaurants use in cooking.
Baugh, a former chef, says it’s important to him to have healthy ingredients in food served by the three Chiles’ restaurants. Together, they serve nearly 900,000 meals a year.
“This is a way to showcase local sustainable food,” he said.
In addition to lettuce, peppers, squash, kale and Swiss chard grown locally, the Geraldson Farm Market also was selling produce imported to the area such as apples, kiwis, lemons and limes.
Also offered: fresh-baked goods and colorful poinsettias.
Plans for the market include expanding the farm operation, adding a barn and hosting community events, weddings and tours.
“This is a really good start,” Chiles said.