Permaculture Creates Sustainable Ecology
Homestead boasts an organic farm that is practicing permaculture and is also striving to serve as a sustainable source of fresh produce and economic opportunity for a community of formerly homeless families.
Verde Garden is unique in the United States, according to Cristina Gonzalez, a University of Miami graduate who is working with the farm through AmeriCorps. The 22-acre farm is part of an affordable housing community built to house 145 formerly homeless families. And all of the housing is LEED certified. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a green building certification system.
The community includes space for families to maintain garden plots of their own and some of the produce will be available to families who want to set up cottage industries by making jellies or other preserves for resale, Gonzalez explained.
The farm’s hub has the goal of streamlining the process restaurants and grocers around the county use to get the limited organic produce being harvested in South Miami-Dade County. The hub will reduce the fossil fuels used to transport organic produce while also lowering the transportation costs.
Meanwhile, the farm is going one step beyond organic farming, using permaculture to create a sustainable ecology, using companion planting, cover crops and shade trees to improve the soil and increase yields without the need for chemical fertilizers.
“We’re growing soil,” explained Jason Long. “We’re doing this on nature’s terms.”
The farm has included farmworkers in its planning.
Verde Garden is partially funded with a grant from the USDA and sits on land owned by Miami-Dade County. The land was obtained when the federal government decommissioned Homestead Air Force Base. But the farmers still hear a lot of fighter jets overhead from Homestead Air Reserve Base.