Tammy and John Germain are committed to healthy eating. Since 2000, they have grown vegetables for their family at their home in the Florida Keys, adding microgreens to the mix in 2017 after learning about the nutritional benefits. When friends asked to purchase their vegetables and an area chef took interest in their microgreens, a business was born.
Today, Florida Keys Garden has a wide customer base, including 12 restaurants, three grocery stores and many individual consumers. That growth – plus damage from a hurricane – necessitated some changes.
“We sold to our first chef in the spring of 2017. In September, Hurricane Irma decimated our gardens, so we had to start from scratch and decided to switch more to a hydroponic system,” Tammy Germain says. “With the growth of the business, we decided to move to a commercial location, building a tower farm with an open farm stand so people can come and wait while we harvest their vegetables.”
The Farm Stand, located at 30770 Overseas Highway in Big Pine Key, is open to the public Thursday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Germain explains that in addition to hydroponic growing, Florida Keys Garden also uses aeroponic and soil bed methods.
“Different vegetables grow better in certain mediums,” she says. “We grow the microgreens, which is the majority of our business, in a channel system that was meant to be hydroponic, but we’ve decided to use soil in it because we find we have a healthier, more consistent growth for them. For leafy greens and herbs, we use a tower farm. It’s vertical, so we can grow more food in a smaller footprint, and since it’s an aeroponic system, the roots get a sufficient amount of air, water and nutrients, making it ideal for these types of vegetables.”
Germain also explains that while peppers, cucumbers and eggplant grow very well in the tower gardens, they utilize a soil method called wicking beds that gives them the space they need to spread out. “Every system we use is water efficient, making them a more sustainable way of farming,” she says.
Their commitment to growing local, healthy produce and customer service has been a big success.
“Chefs love the microgreens because their orders are harvested within a day of delivery,” Germain says. “They also know that they can ask for specialty items, and if I can grow it, they’ll get it.”