Now more than ever, people are eschewing the more processed food offerings from major grocery chains in favor of shopping locally for their produce.
In recent years, younger Americans had already begun trending toward preferring farmers’ markets or direct-to-consumer farms over grocery stores. But the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift significantly, spurred by supply shortages at grocery stores and a desire to avoid them altogether due to their high-risk nature.
And direct, farmer-to-consumer sales don’t just benefit consumers; government research suggests farms that sell directly to consumers have an easier time staying in business than those that do not.
Here in Jacksonville, there are several great, locally-owned-and-operated farms that produce many of the same products you’d find in the fresh food section at your nearest grocer – but without the unknown chemicals or preservatives, and with the added benefit of supporting local businesses.
We’ve compiled a short list of some of Jacksonville’s best locally-operated farms, as well as some facts about them and how to find their products. Since it’s the middle of summer, a few of them have just ended their market season – but be sure to keep them in mind for the fall!
Congaree and Penn
Perhaps the best-known of Jacksonville’s local farms, Congaree and Penn was founded in 2014 by Scott and Lindsay Meyer.
What started as a rice farm at 11830 Old Kings Road in Northwest Jax has since expanded into orchards, fields, and even event space. It boasts the world’s largest mayhaw orchard, and it’s one of Florida’s only year-round rice milling farms.
The farm produces jellies, fruit juices, and rice that it sells at farmers’ markets, local grocery stores, and to local restaurants for use in their dishes. It also sells its produce directly to consumers, both at its farm or from its online shop.
It hosts events like grape pickings, farm tours, and goat hikes – as well as private events including weddings and other celebrations. Day passes to tour the farm on your own are $3 per guest – though visitation is currently limited due to COVID-19.
For more info on Congaree and Penn, check out its website.
Urban Folk Farm
Established in late 2014, Urban Folk Farm is located at 14080 Normandy Boulevard on the Westside.
The farm features a main field plus an orchard with citrus, olive, and fig trees and grows a rotating selection of seasonal veggies. It maintains a pesticide-free operation and donates its excess produce to Sulzbacher.
It also partners with Academie de Montessori Erd Kinder Project in San Marco, hosting bi-weekly visits during the school year that allow the students to learn and experience farm life.
The farm hosts its own Farm Stand from which it sells its produce, and it also routinely appears at Riverside Arts Market. It also offers free delivery within a limited area for orders of more than $50; orders under $50 can still be delivered for a $5 fee. It accepts cash, card payment, PayPal, and SNAP/EBT.
Urban Folk Farm’s 2019-20 season just came to a close. However, it sells eggs as well as honey from Huey’s Bees throughout the year by appointment only.
For more information on Urban Folk Farm, check out its website.
Berry Good Farms
Located within the North Florida School of Special Education’s Mill Creek Road campus, Berry Good Farms is an urban farm that provides job training and paid employment for recent NFSSE graduates participating in the school’s transition and postgraduate programs.
It grows a variety of fruits, veggies, and herbs, and it features a 30’ x 60’ greenhouse. Its programs include the Barkin’ Biscuits program, where workers create all-natural dog treats using farm-grown ingredients like wheatgrass, sweet potato, and carrot, and the Berry Good Farms Café launched in collaboration with The Arc Jacksonville.
The farm normally offers a mobile market, but it’s been sidelined by the ongoing pandemic, as has the Berry Good Farms On the Go food truck. It instead shifted to providing pre-order produce bags for pick-up at the school.
During the school’s summer break, the farm is still selling its produce through Springfield’s 1748 Bakehouse. You can also purchase Barkin’ Biscuits as well as herbal mixes from its online shop. The farm accepts WIC, SNAP, and EBT payment.
For information on current availability, call (904) 724-8323. For more information about the farm and its mission, visit https://berrygoodfarms.org.
Eat Your Yard Jax (Armstrong Farm)
Eat Your Yard Jax, also known as the Armstrong Farm, is located at 8220 Moncrief Road in Northwest Jax. It was founded by Tim Armstrong who previously volunteered with NFSSE to help grow its Berry Good Farms program.
Armstrong’s farm grows mushrooms, berries, plants, fruit trees, herbs, and more, focusing primarily on helping others learn how to farm themselves. It normally hosts workshops on growing mushrooms, making herbal teas, and other subjects, but those have been put on pause indefinitely due to COVID-19.
The farm delivers to anyone within the Jacksonville area for a $25 fee; pickup at the farm, available Fridays and Saturdays from 10 AM to 4 PM or by appointment, is free. Its selection can be viewed – and purchased – from its online shop.
For more information about Eat Your Yard Jax, visit its website.
Down to Earth Farm
Located at 9355 Old Plank Road on the Westside, Down to Earth Farm was founded in late 2007 by Brian and Kristin Lapinski.
The farm sells a seasonal rotation of dozens of vegetables and flowers from November to June – its 2019-20 season just wrapped up last month. It does not use pesticides or herbicides to grow its produce, using natural pest deterring methods instead.
The farm was a participant in the now-defunct One Spark crowdfunding festival. It sells at RAM and Green Market in Neptune Beach, as well as local shops like 1748 Bakehouse and Community Loaves.
For more information about Down to Earth Farms, visit https://downtoearthjax.com.