At the Wynwood Tomato Festival, owner of The Market Company Claire Tomlin couldn’t say enough good things about Tina Borek, her heirloom tomato farm, and her progressive innovations that have become an integral part of creating success for Miami’s local food market. Tina brought her tomatoes to the festival and made herself available for questions, so we didn’t hesitate to ask them.
Tina is a pioneer of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, which form a partnership between the customer and the grower directly at the food source. Individuals and families sign up, and one day a week they go to a central drop-off location to get their box of fresh produce. Whole Foods now serves as one of these locations, and Tina is responsible for the company’s participation.
After having such an encouraging experience with Tina in Wynwood, we followed up with her and her family on their own turf: Teena’s Pride heirloom tomato farm in Redland, FL.
Every first Sunday of the month from November-April, the Boreks open up their farm for a small farmers market and farm tour. They encourage people to come see where and how the produce is grown, which gives customers a real connection to their food and encourages continued support of the CSA.
Unfortunately, Tina wasn’t feeling well when we visited and had to miss the tour, but she turned us over to the very green thumbs of her son Michael. He is the third generation of his family to own the farm, now operating under the name Michael Borek Farm.
Michael skillfully guided the group through the greenhouses and fields and explained the growing processes, and how they differ from greenhouse to field. He showed us the many tomato houses, as well as myriad other vegetables and herbs, including a dozen varieties of mint. He allowed us to pick anything ripe we could find and try it for ourselves, and it was gloriously delicious.
Michael explained that the Borek Farm is not entirely organic, but they get as close as they can. A word to the wise: organic certification is not always an indication of something “better,” and sometimes can hinder the efficiency of a farming operation. According to Michael Borek, it’s easier and more practical to use organic materials and beneficial insects inside the greenhouses. “In the field we can use them as well, [but] they’re not as effective.”
Michael Borek’s farm is a prime example of what works, and who we should be trusting to grow the food we put in our bodies. Local farmers need support in order to start gaining popularity. Farmers’ markets are a great start, but for the past few years they have really struggled with competition from Mexico, and Michael doesn’t think they’re practical for smaller farmers.
“…what I do think is that if the growers start collaborating together, that might be something that’s more practical. I’m not gonna put anything in that CSA share that I don’t know where it comes from and I don’t trust the grower. Because… the people have a lot of faith in me, I have to have faith in something that I’m buying, too.”