BY ASHLEY D. THOMAS
The family of Gainey’s Farm Fresh Produce has been farming outside of Gainesville since the early 1900s. Now Seabreeze High School graduate Maurice Gainey and his wife, Gertie, are the lifeblood of the farm specializing in organic produce.
Turnip greens, okra, watermelon, broccoli, carrots, beets, brussel sprouts, several varieties of kale, spinach, cabbage, cauliflower – including purple, green and orange varieties – are all examples of their fresh from the farm produce.
Concerned about pesticides
The Gaineys made the decision to go organic after learning about the detrimental effects pesticides may cause to those that consume the food. The pair sells their produce at farmer’s markets and festivals across the state, including the local market on City Island in Daytona Beach every Saturday.
“People have really started to care about the different pesticides and what that does to you,” explained Maurice Gainey, who grew up in Ormond. “My grandfather was a farmer and after he got old I took over the farm in 1991.”
The Gaineys made the switch to organic five years ago.
What organic means
“Organically grown” food, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, is food grown and processed using no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. The practice has gone mainstream after many years sitting in the shadow of other weed and bug control methods.
In addition to the nonuse of synthetic fertilizers, labeling an item organic indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.
“Being organic doesn’t mean you don’t spray,” Gainey explained. “You have to spray. There are organic sprays and some even use dish detergent, some use the old method of soap or dish detergents. But something has to be on it.”
“Back in the day, it wasn’t known how the chemicals were used and caused the body different health problems. It’s the best for the body. There are organic products that can be used,” explained Gertie.
Pesticides derived from natural sources such as biological pesticides may be used in producing organically grown food.
Future of farming
“With marrying into the family, I really got into it,” Gertie continued. “Farm fresh sweet corn, a lot of blueberries, peaches, black-eyes, lima beans. We also have barbecue. We started off with vegetables and the barbecue started taking over.”
“The future looks good for us. We plan on doing more markets. There is a program called the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and they buy a lot of stuff from the different farms in Gainesville and take it to different groups of people. Some farmers participate in that program,” Maurice Gainey shared.
According to the USDA, the CSA consists of a community of individuals who pledge support to a farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production. Typically, members or “shareholders” of the farm or garden pledge in advance to cover the anticipated costs of the farm operation and farmer’s salary.
“We’ve been around a long time,” Maurice added. “I don’t think we will participate in the program.”
Advice: Buy local
The Gaineys also shared that markets across Florida aren’t all the same.
“There are different types of markets. In Gainesville, the local farmers market is an actual farmer’s market that means that you can only bring in produce that is grown locally by the farmer. But here in Daytona Beach the market is more of a buyer’s market,” Maurice explained.
“Produce is purchased through retail and then resold. At this location myself and one other guy are the only ones who sell produce they actually grow. Others buy vegetables from all over the world.
If you walk around, you will see produce from Peru, California and Mexico. It’s tough down here for us. We have to price down in Daytona. In Gainesville, they know we are growing our own produce. It was picked today, not a month ago, and they are willing to pay for that.”
Although the rewards can be great, the Gaineys explain it is not for the faint of heart.
“It is hard work and something that you have to like doing, not just something you do for the money. It’s like any other job,” Gertie concluded.