Grow your own!

My job was to produce a story on how to buy direct from South Miami-Dade farmers. Many of the folks down that way to sell fruits and vegtables to the general public and in season you can find some bargains that excel in quality and are competitive price wise. I love these stories because it gets me back to my roots. Our family ranched in Arizona for years. Raising vegetables is in the blood.  

So we talked to lots of folks and the bottom line is there is a strong argument for the quality of purchases made for buying local in the fruit stands that grow their own product. But prices are reflective of the season. When strawberries are coming off in the spring then there are deals, the same for tomatoes and the exotic fruits raised on the small farms in the Redland.  So pick the right time  of year to head down to Homestead and Florida City.  Do not go looking for local strawberrys in July! There is also a travel factor. In order to purchase the veggies you have to drive down that way. Gas becomes and issue. So there are downsides to buying local.

But there was a bright side! Cameraman Rudy Padro pulled up to the Three Sisters Farm.  The little plot of land produces lots of exotic fruits, yucca, malanga, a hot weather spinach called Kaloo all tended by Cliff Middleton.  Cliff is a character, flowing white hair and beard, dressed as if he’s headed out on a Everglades safari.  A son of the farm belt, his family raised grains, Cliff settled in South Dade years ago.

We talked about buying direct and saving money, buying quality and paying a little more but then he said it, “the ultimate cheaper is to grow your own.”  There it was and I took him by surprise when I told him I did exactly that.  We of course launched into a conversation about raising backyard lettuce, herbs, tomatoes, you name it. In my story that aired on NBC6 Cliff says, “It is very possible on a little piece of land to grow all the salad we need to eat.” I have a 10 by 10 foot, 100 hundred square foot backyard garden and when up and running does indeed produce all the salad the Tester family needs. And then there are the herbs, tomatoes, rosemary, mint, and collard greens that round out the backyard “farm.” 

Cliff is absolutely correct, plant it, it grows and you eat it. How much more cheap is there than that? In fact $2 spent on lettuce seed that tolerates heat has lasted for four years and I am about to put more into the ground.

A plastic bag with a lettuce mix costs about $3.50 at the local supermarket. The same amount harvested from my back yard costs pennies.  Ok there is a little physical work but that’s fine and by the way you can do the exact thing in pots on your patio. Cherry tomatoes grown on a terrace are just as good as those from the ground.

So as far as I am concerned Cliff Middleton is the smartest guy in South Dade. “Grow your own” is a message that we can all learn from,  so get out the shovels if you want to save big bucks.

By the way Cliff teaches classes on how to tend a South Florida vegtable garden check out his website at


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