A very long time ago, I worked at Epcot, Disney’s Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. While there, I wore the famous Excruciating Polyester Costumes Of Torture and Every Paycheck Came On Thursday. It was a lot of fun—I was fresh out of college, and Disney was absolutely awesome about letting their employees work in a variety of different capacities.
I was in Guest Relations, and as part of that responsibility I had the chance to do many things, including being a tour guide for the Youth Education Series or Y.E.S. programs. Through that program my job was to show student groups around and teach about “Harvests and Habitats”. We would tour the Land Pavillion and learn about agriculture, aquaculture, and the innovations that were being made.
One of the exciting new techniques we discussed on our tour was hydroponics. Thanks to this “cutting edge” technology, they were able to significantly increase the yield of a small area of land and did so to produce lettuces that were used in many of the restaurants on Disney property. That was 15 years ago and now this technology is being used right around the corner from us!
I first noticed the St. Augustine U-Pick farm as I was driving along Interstate 95 near 207. There, in the parking lot of the St. Augustine Flea Market, they have transformed one acre of our sandy soil into a mini farm that yields more bounty than a field three times that size. Since August of 2011, they have been growing berries, herbs, lettuces, beans, and a variety of produce that can be easily harvested from the unique towers that line the rows of the farm.
Each tower is filled with a special growing medium that allows them to efficiently water and fertilize the plants without the use of soil. The towers also allow you to pick what you want without some of the usual inconveniences that come with harvesting. Plants at a variety of heights offer harvest at the perfect height for almost anyone, and the field is covered with a special cloth that discourages weed growth and contains most of the dirt. It is also really nice that the “Farm Rules” are very safety and sanitation conscious.
The strawberries, green beans, swiss chard, dill, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, green onions, and parsley I have tried from their field were all delicious. My cat is a huge fan of their catnip too. If you would like to visit their farm and pick your own produce, they are open Thursday through Sunday—with the earlier days of their week having more to harvest (sometimes they do run out of certain varieties of produce in their field before Sunday). You can visit their Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/BerryStacks or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org (it isn’t very easy to get them via telephone). I have enjoyed visiting them so much that I even filmed a special segment there for WJCT…I will share the clip after the show airs.