This past Saturday, for a full workday-inducing twelve hours, the Broward County Convention Center was home to the Green Planet Festival, a new event / trade show the aim of which is to "promote sustainability and celebrate green, organic living".
Boca Raton-based entrepreneur Kyle Michaud is the man behind the curtains for this festival, which saw over 40 vendors from around the country set up booths and espouse the benefits of their particular brand of healthful living.
Among the breadth of anti-GMO advocates, chemical alarmists, and Chinese alternative medicine pundits, there were those seeking to educate on the finer points of growing produce, engaging in proper nutrition, and helping the environment as a whole through the Sierra Club.
Luckily, there were even quite a few talented locals in attendance, sharing with the accumulated masses the work that they do on a daily basis.
Weezie's Kitchen, a gluten-free bakery located at 1321 East Commercial Blvd. in Oakland Park, was out to explain some of their uniquely crafted creations, such as gluten-free cookies, breads, pizzas, and popovers. "Many people come to us from out of town," Weezie's co-owner Chris Dutton told us. "They come in, tell us it's so hard to find decent gluten-free bread, buy ours, and ship it home." The bakery and cafe, which can seat about 20 guests, grows their own produce and makes their own cheese, in addition to the full-fledged on-site bakery. The operation is headed by chef Louise Dutton who opened the shop (previously in Fort Lauderdale) in 2013.
Davie farmers Amy Bergey and Gary Koen of Gan Eden Farms came to the festival to highlight their line of hand-crafted vinegars and jams. The family run business grows a plethora of herbs and, most interestingly specific, a host of ghost peppers. 'Just Shoot Me', for example, is the top of the crop of their spicy jam, offering a sweet and hot mix that kicks your palate with heat but is still edible with the fruit-laden base. "A little ghost pepper goes a long way," Gary Koen told us.
"We just want to keep things small and make a good product," he added. "We're not trying to become millionaires."
Gan Eden Farms attends local farmers markets, including the Pompano Farmers Market, Whole Food Farmers Market, and, as is appropriate for 2015, has online ordering.
Another Davie grower, Spyke's Grove, specializes in that famous Florida product: the citrus plant. Located at 7250 Griffin Road in Davie, Spyke's is looking to introduce the community to all things verdant with an all new community center. "We are interested in using our space to do things like yoga and put on sustainability classes," resident artist Nikki Rye told us.
Farmers and local producers have been generally hard to find in a collective environment outside of city sponsored markets or co-ops, which is why another South Florida entrepreneur is seeking to literally put them all on the map.
Publisher Cassie Peters has put out her initial run of Florida Food and Farm, a quarterly magazine that will focus on highlighting the impressive growing scene in our area. "The goal is to make a resource for the connection between farms and the average consumer, buyer, and restaurants," Peters told us. "There are so many farms popping up that are building the local food economy." With a coverage zone stretching across the southern half of the state, it'll aim to be a go-to source of farm-based editorial content as well as a commercial repository of farm locations.
Based out of Lake Worth, the publication is set to begin distribution in 250 locations in South Florida, including Publix, Whole Foods, and other smaller establishments.
For the average person, there was much to learn and discover at the inaugural Green Planet Festival. Look for this festival to pop up again next year, and maybe you too can learn a little bit more about where the heck your food comes from.
Doug Fairall is a craft beer blogger who focuses on Florida beers, and has been a homebrewer since 2010. For beer things in your Twitter feed, follow him @DougFairall and find the latest beer pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.