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Natural Awakenings Naples and Fort Myers

Collier Family Farms: Growing a New Generation of Healthy Harvests

Mar 01, 2013 12:34PM ● By Susan Aimes

While pesticide-free farming may be a new endeavor among the many enterprises of Baron Collier Companies (BCC), agriculture isn’t. Since the early 1900s, when Baron Gift Collier first began his diverse business ventures in Southwest Florida, extensive agricultural operations—primarily citrus groves and vegetable farming—have been important components of the firm’s success.

Today, BCC’s latest agricultural venture is Collier Family Farms, in Ave Maria. Its 12 pesticide-free acres are farmed by Lara Collier, a great-granddaughter of Baron Collier, and Elvin Engle, whose 40 years of agricultural experience includes teaming up with and managing several of the nation’s largest farms.

The farm’s produce stand in Ave Maria, a self-sustaining town developed by BCC in conjunction with Ave Maria University, as well as its community supported agricultural (CSA) program, are attracting the interest of local residents and chefs. “Our farm stand and U-pick have a fresh selection of produce harvested from whatever is growing on the farm: tomatoes, including five different heirlooms, as well as bell peppers, hot peppers, zucchini, squash, cucumbers, leafy greens, okra, carrots, kohlrabi, Romanesco broccoli and onions. This fall, the public can begin to enjoy our fresh produce by signing up for our CSA,” advises Collier.

Her fascination with farming began after she received a degree in environmental science and biology from Florida Gulf Coast University in 2012. A trip to Ireland during the summer of 2012 via World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) provided the spark of inspiration for an organic farm. WWOOF is an organization that links volunteers with organic farmers and helps people share more sustainable ways of living. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food and accommodations.

“I plan to grow Collier Family Farms into the area’s premier, locally owned and grown producer of pesticide-free produce,” notes Collier, who recently finished the paperwork that positions the farm for USDA Organic certification. The local family farm concept fits well with Ave Maria’s plan to preserve more than 17,000 acres of sensitive land that have been set aside for conservation.

Location: 5321 Ave Maria Blvd. For more information, call 239-398-4157 or visit CollierFamilyFarms.com.

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