These days, you could say Jason "Farmer Jay" McCobb -- owner of Farmer Jay Pure Organics -- is busy. Not only does he run his five-acre farm in west Delray Beach, where he grows several crops and supports a small flock of chickens and a pig but he also is growing for others. Right now, the list includes several local restaurants, supplying produce daily for Max's Harvest in Delray Beach, managing a 715-square-foot herb garden at Farmer's Table in Boca Raton, and overseeing a rooftop garden at Sublime in Fort Lauderdale and a special garden bar for the mixologists at the Broken Shaker in Miami. Add that to the hundreds of gardens he's constructed for homeowners throughout South Florida and you'd think there's not much land left for this farmer to till.
You'd be wrong. There's plenty more to do, according to McCobb, who is currently plotting to build a two-acre community farm and education center in East Delray that would serve to supplement his thriving Farmer Jay Junior Sprouts program.
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While McCobb makes a living off his farm, his main goal continues to be localizing the area food system, and educational outreach and promotion of home gardens is an integral part of that mission. Overall, McCobb wants to change the image of agriculture and create a larger farming community in South Florida, he told Clean Plate Charlie recently.
"The whole premise of my business is to educate people, getting them on the way to growing their own food, and to support local farming," said McCobb. "To do so, I need a central location where I can host seminars, speak to larger groups of students, provide educational outreach, and more. Right now, that's hard to do on my farm, which doesn't have easy access, space to instruct, or even public restrooms."
To help usher in a new era of farmers, McCobb's goal is to expand his Junior Sprouts program, working with a larger number of local schools to teach children the basics of gardening and the importance of growing local, organic, sustainable food crops. To date, he's worked with several area schools in an effort to cultivate an interest in agriculture. As the program continues to grow, McCobb said he hopes to create a space where multiple classrooms can gather and learn together.
McCobb's mission: Build a farm in East Delray Beach that would include a schoolhouse for up to 50 people; an outdoor kitchen and café for local chefs to give live cooking demonstrations and provide healthy lunch options for visiting students; a greenhouse for indoor, year-round farming; and an outdoor farming space that would accommodate several types of crops and agricultural instruction. He's also looking to offer a small retail space to sell organic wood chips, soil, fertilizer, and other products to help people begin the process of growing their own food, in addition to selling locally made food products and produce.
"My vision is to have a space big enough to allow me to introduce the kids [in my Junior Sprouts program] to the ways many different cultures grow in different countries," said McCobb. "But overall, I am looking to make this a larger part of the community, from providing volunteers and internship opportunities to helping grow the Junior Sprouts program. We're looking for creative ways to do this, and any help we can get will be much appreciated. All we need is the community support."
McCobb has not yet identified a location for the community farm and is looking for help with planning and funding it. Those interested in supporting his efforts should contact McCobb through Facebook at Farmer Jay Pure Organics, or email [email protected]
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.