Katie Harris walked slowly along a freshly tilled line of earth. She pushed a two-wheeled contraption, a new investment for the farm. It was loaded with a reservoir of seeds situated between the two wheels. Harris was planting a row of beans.
But Full Earth Farm in Quincy is growing something beyond crops. Katie Harris and Aaron Suko, the farm’s operators, are helping cultivate a new concept in agriculture. They grow vegetables — not subsidized cash crops. And they sell locally so people can eat locally.
“A big mission of mine is making eating local food normal,” said Harris.
Harris and Suko are not farmers by birth. They were not born into the business. Instead, they chose to farm. Harris explained she envisioned working with the land — but she didn’t anticipate this vision coming to fruition so soon.
“The project has happened faster than I ever thought it would,” she said.
This June will mark the completion of the business’s fifth year.
“Every day is a little different,” said Harris. “Different crops mean different things.”
Volunteers help Full Earth Farm carry out their mission. One of these volunteers, Steven Seliger, arrived while Harris finished her row of beans. Bundled against the crisp morning air, he came out to weed.
Seliger did not equivocate about his faith in Full Earth Farm’s purpose.
“These are the kids who are going to save the world,” said Seliger. “These are the kids who have the vision of how to live on this planet.
Harris explained interest in farming is increasing among young people. But the hubs of this new agrarian trend are far from Florida — or any place with an extended growing season. Harris mentions, for example, the climatic limitations in states such as Vermont and Oregon where local foods have gained more momentum.
“The South is where it should be happening,” she said, explaining the Florida climate does not preclude a single month from the cultivation of one edible crop or another.
Full Earth Farm grows a wide range of vegetables. Their crops, for example, include beets, bok choy, carrots, cucumbers, kohlrabi, kale, radishes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and celery — among many others.
The farm also grows shiitake mushrooms. Harris and Suko drill holes into the bark-side of oak logs. Then they place fungi spores in these holes before covering the openings with wax. Eventually, the mushrooms pop through.
“It’s crazy the things you learn,” said Harris, reflecting on her new body of knowledge. “I know 20 lettuce varieties by look.”
Harris and Suko also maintain a composting system, combining commercial fish scraps and discarded restaurant trimmings with bio-matter indigenous to the farm. The compost is move through chronologically organized piles to monitor each stage of decomposition.
The end result is a soft and nutrient-rich soil, free of any foul odor. Harris and Suko spread the compost using a manure spreader retro-fit with an apparatus restricting the range the soil is dispersed. This more precise placement is preferable for the farm’s relatively small vegetable fields.
“You can grow a surprising amount of food in a small area,” said Harris. “This is only 2 acres, and I make a living off of it.”
To support these efforts, Harris co-founded the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance or SFA.
“We’re having to build that infrastructure because it’s not there,” she said.
The SFA, a non-profit organization, seeks to strengthen the small farm community in the region. One way it pursues this goal is through the creation of a new sales platform, the Red Hills Online Market or RHO Market.
The RHO Market only offers food grown within 100 miles of Tallahassee. Sunday through Tuesday, customers can browse produce by category of plant or by farm of origin. Selections are paid via credit card and then picked up or delivered on Thursday each week.