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Summerland Key
All Year: NO
Area (ha): 5
Persons: 1-2
Category: Other
Host ID: 30255
Region: South

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Last Updated: June 29, 2019

Salt farm destroyed by Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Farmers are still working to restore the hammocks surrounding the farm to health. Serious wilderness campers or tropical restoration specialists only need consider coming to support the land January-March. Hosts are off-grid and rarely have access to internet. Do check mail when we do. Please show patience. Some projects listed below are still active - mostly forest restoration and removal of invasive exotics is what we are working on in foreseeable future.


This *was* the home of Florida Keys Sea Salt - artisanal batch, solar evaporated sea salt harvested on an island in the Florida Keys - 15 miles from Key West.

UPDATE September 16, 2015: FYI – our ‘season’ is October – June. Elder farmers are happy to continue hosting flexible, willing service exchange guests who are able to go with flow as we manage various farm tasks along with off the land work & some health challenges (related to energies/chemical overload) and who are willing to jump in to provide assistance with broad array of land and home projects & tasks. These current conditions impact how work flows and our ability to feed ourselves from the land – please consider this when you inquire about coming to the land. Also consider that availability of farmers to participate in projects will likely be limited during this time. While we are in need of help, the remote nature of our location requires careful consideration by all parties to hope for a good fit and an understanding that shared living conditions means being adaptable and leaving things better than one found them. Summer is coming to and end and cooler temps are in the future - preparing the gardens for planting of more tender annual veggies!

The Florida Keys are an amazing and beautiful place to spend some time living close to the land. Our farm is unique in the United States, for salt farming and our southerly latitude and our fledgling efforts toward farming with permaculture principles on an island in subtropical USA. The coral reef and ocean waters provide many opportunities to learn about the natural world and the farm offers much to learn about island life in a rural setting very close to Key West. Currently, we are involved in lots of cleaning up, clearing out, packing up, sorting out and getting ready to discover our next adventure in addition to solar evaporation of seawater/salt harvest. We are currently trialing new salt pans and there are many salt related tasks to be done toward market ready salt. Farm Motto: May All Benefit.
WHERE WE ARE: Rural Florida Keys; 15 miles from Key West, on the bus line; with bicycling, swimming, school track on island.
FUTURE GOALS: Simplified systems, increase harvest of foods; forage and cultivated, continued sustainability projects, increase income streams to meet needs of farm.

SPECIFIC PROJECTS: Downsizing/CLEARING OUT: while we Increase permaculture food sources; relocate plants on the land, remove invasive flora, repairs to house, buildings; updating/upgrading various systems, complete water management upgrades; various salt projects; signage on the land, more composting ….

FARM FAMILY: English speaking Midge and Tom are committed recyclers having participated in the initiation of recycling in Key West and the Florida Keys in the 80’s; share the land with farm cats, native Key Deer, wading birds, raptors and other endangered wildlife as well as a revolving show of b&b guests, spiritual teachers and our local community of healers.
VISION: Continue to prepare for eventual sale of home. Continue to adapt in order to Provide a sustainable, living income for the farmers and others while remaining close to the land and utilizing the simplest methods possible. Grow/harvest as many sustainable sources of food as possible on the land under various extreme conditions, serving the needs of the extended farm family. Share what we learn with others in order to promote humans living lightly on the land.

WOULD LIKE TO HOST: Progressive, cooperative folks with willing heart, flexible minds and strong integrity who are open to learning about some complex truths of the farming life. Most open to those who are eager to assist the farmers as they shift into a different plan with open hearts for whatever comes to pass. Those who require a great deal of social interaction are advised to give great consideration to the retreat like nature of farmers and our operation.

Lots of CHANGES in OUR FARMING ADVENTURE:
We realize that this profile is a lot to read and take in. We respectfully ask that you please read fully to end, in order to gain information that will save us all valuable time in communicating and limit misunderstandings for us all. Please consider that you will take your time, perhaps print it out for more careful review, maybe making notes.

ONLINE INFO ABOUT OUR FARM: Lots of info online about our farm and our salt, a simple search will reveal several articles and commentaries.

WHERE WE ARE: ~150 miles from the mainland; ~90 miles from Cuba where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Atlantic Ocean, in the heart of The Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. A wonderland of natural vistas and potential for marine and natural world experiences.

OUR GOALS FOR THE FUTURE: We aim to increase biodynamic and permaculture practices throughout the farm. We plan to maintain production of moringa oleifera, develop other possible food produce and expand our permaculture practices.

SPECIFIC FARM PROJECTS: We aim to limit purchase of new materials unless dictated by any project health and safety requirements. Weeding, rehab/restoration of permaculture food production areas, includes some serious earth grubbing and further development of soil and collection/propagation of various perennial veg and other permaculture friendly plants specific to our micro-environment, the establishment of temporary fencing/live fencing for garden(s). Management of invasive raccoons and iguanas, potentially to include iguana as a protein source. Management of salt houses includes water management, harvesting salt, cleaning salt, maintaining (and building) salt houses and weeding, cleaning salt yards and maintaining the hardwood hammock that surrounds the salt and bee yards. Salt management includes preparing market ready salt: grading, cleaning and packaging salt; preparing the ‘show’ and our show van for the road. Optimizing our Sprinter van for our planned future touring. Food Forest/Garden projects; soil building, hand watering, weeding, harvesting, integrated pest management to live in cooperation with the various so-called pests, seed collection. Road filling and maintenance of wild mangroves along our roads; clearing mangroves/hammocks of storm debris; a never ending task. Development of a plan for continued painting/repairing outdoor furniture/signs for our dirt roads, planting, watering, weeding, moving mulch around the land, removing downed trees in the bush, sewing, painting, pressure washing, collecting items dispersed through the hammocks during H. Wilma, repair and upgrade farm buildings, help keep the farm vehicles(s) running and working on conversion of the Sprinter 3500 van and on and on… did we mention weeding/grubbing, drying, cleaning and packaging salt? Many and various other projects in support and aid of the our permaculture and downsizing efforts and sharing time on the land, including keeping shared areas tidy, some housekeeping/cooking for paid guests, possible support for paid cooking gigs. There is always something new and not on this list as we seek to become more sustainable and minimize our footprints at all levels. :). WISH LIST PROJECTS: Composting toilet(s) on the land. Outdoor kitchen for flexibility of all and more independent meal preparation by service exchange guests, more weather friendly outdoor accommodations for volunteers. Coconut processing station for consumption by farm family and eventual production for sale as farm produce. Storage shed, drying house and more salt houses for salt yard.

THE FARM FAMILY: We are English speaking Tom and Midge, the parents of four adult children, 3 sons (born and raised in the Keys) live in the Rocky Mountains and one daughter lives in the mountains of California. Both farmers are University of Florida/Monroe County extension service Master Gardeners, passionate advocates and caretakers of the fragile and sensitive endangered habitat in which we live and farm adjacent to the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge. Farm family is host to a revolving cast of folks who come to visit either as paid guests or service exchange/exchange guests. Tom is a retired certified arborist and irrigation specialist and Midge is a former home birth midwife, health advocate and multi-disciplinary care provider. With much experience working the land, Tom was raised on a dairy farm in PA and had a landscape and irrigation firm for 35 years in the Florida Keys, before Wilma washed away the business and gardens. 2013 saw Midge sailing to Havana, Cuba for the International Permaculture Convergence, from US to Cuba aboard S/V Friendship out of Earth ‘n’ Us Farm in Miami! 2014 saw Earth & Sea Farm chosen as a design client for Financial Permaculture Intensive in Miami. VERY IMPORTANT … We are SCENT FREE/VOC/CHEMICAL FREE to every degree possible, save essential oils, this is a health issue and is not negotiable. We are omnivorous by circumstance with a focus on quality of foods rather than quantity. Tom and Midge are both very private and often quiet folks, although sometimes living communally and being in farm management/b&b host mode can make this seem less private and quiet than we would be otherwise. We are Voters and believe that our vote matters, no matter how mixed up and corrupt our governmental systems seem! We are progressive and open-minded. Tom and Midge are sometimes obliged to work off the land to keep the bills paid, this can make for some interesting scheduling of farm days.

CAMPING/ACCOMMODATIONS/FOOD: We offer tropical wilderness primitive campsites (service exchange guests provide all camping equipment of their own; tent with fine/no-seeum screen is a must and many older tents do not have this ~ please do NOT come to the land WITHOUT this protection :).

***all service exchange guests must plan to provide their own meals along with some shared meals with farmers. Menus include beans, grains, garden greens, foraged greens, local produce and garden swap food, big fans of egg for protein with occasional pastured animal protein.

Since structure on the farm depends on the needs of any given moment: start 7-9am (sometimes for special events this is earlier … or later, depending on farmers previous day or demands of present day) salt house management, computer and online tasks, water food plants, weed food forests/gardens, manage food that is growing, harvest food, smoke salt, other land work; usually sometime between 1100-1230 lunchtime then manage salt orders, package for shipping, usually a 1-3 hour siesta in middle of day. The after siesta time; usually 3/4-7pm approximately: prepare/manage paperwork, other land work anywhere from 5-7pm cook/eat/clean kitchen, close up salt houses … the day can sometimes look quite different, again depending on the needs of the farm and farm family, including service exchange guests.

WHO WE WOULD LIKE TO HOST: Folks who are most satisfied being on the land with us are those who are most able to handle the shifting realities of our version of wilderness, wide seasonal variations of weather as well as the flexibility of farm life in general; tropical farm life in particular and a willingness to go with the flow, recognizing that sustainable farming is hard work and a big task with lots of moving/growing and changing priorities sometimes within the same day, even hour. Further flexibility demanded by the current situation of having our home listed for sale and the demands of short notice showing to potential buyers or accommodating short notice b&b guests. We never know how many service exchange guests will be on the land at any given time although we generally limit this to no more than 3, being happy working alone is a plus. We have much experience with exchange style living and learning, and find the more we know about one another from day one on the land, the better. We are involved with a variety of community projects and happily connect volunteers around the community and provide info on social opportunities and fun events throughout the keys, if requested. Being prepared for varying weather conditions is essential, Summer is hot/wet/buggy; other seasons can have same climate conditions, sometimes less extreme and pervasive; winter having dry/cool optimal weather with some cold and occasional wet and some hot/muggy. Adults only need apply; this means folks who are fully responsible for their life and experiences! We are sometimes only hosting one service exchange guest at a time, being able to work independently and be self-motivating while following farmer’s direction is a plus. Many non-farming specific skills are welcome and useful on the land. We will consider all ages and skill levels of volunteers, what matters most is a willing & cooperative heart, flexible mind, and connection to the land and land projects that serve the greater vision of the farm. We do welcome short notice visits, when it feels right. We limit alcohol and there is No recreational Tobacco Use on the land as it is Very hard on tomatoes and other nightshade crops. Also NO weapons. We allow NO ILLEGAL activities, ZERO tolerance!
EXPECTATIONS OF service exchange guests/wwoofers: We invite service exchange guests onto the land to join in our adventure, whatever that may be on any given day. We specifically request that service exchange guests are agreed to executing tasks our way before deciding that there is a better way. We also specifically request that service exchange guests be clear on what is or is not working for them in our exchange agreement, sooner rather than later and In Private with hosts by arrangement, please. Hours per week: 25-35 hours, depending on specific agreement and agreed tasks this is normally 4-6 days; 5-7 hours a day. Shared work days can begin as early as 7-7:30am and sometimes earlier with notice, and later too, sometimes without notice of delay. Optimum progress on farm projects and optimum personal time for all on the land is best achieved by clear communication about all aspects of shared life. We consider any length stay and limit new arrivals to one per week to help maintain relaxed flow on the land. We have a Weekly check in (usually on Tuesday or Wednesday) for each service exchange guest or team with the farmers. If flow is good and all can see that we are flowing well or on the way to doing so, we carry on for another week and if flow is not happening in a way that is good for all, or making progress in that direction, we will say thank you and service exchange guest will move on to their next adventure. After the two week trial, farmers will plan weekly check in meetings with no expectations that long term stays are assured unless the energy flow remains good for all or a specific long term agreement is reached. Expectations of value received by being on the land are most reasonable if expectations include being open to learning what presents itself to be learned and recognize that longer visits lend themselves to more learning opportunities. Priorities of work on the land are the responsibility of the farmers and are decided toward both long and short term goals. We have been known to shift the priorities on short notice to take advantage of serendipitous events …
NEW ARRIVALS: by arrangement and ONLY before noon, unless extenuating circumstances – prefer no arrivals on Sunday/Monday.
INSURANCE/LEGAL ISSUES: We trust that all service exchange guests will have their own various health insurance coverage as we offer none, having none ourselves, save Tom’s Veterans benefits for which we are truly grateful. Any visas, work permits or other legal documents are outside our area of knowledge. Be honest about any legal issues in your life, please.
WEATHER: Weather can be Unpredictable and Extreme, please PLAN ahead for heat, cold, wet/rainy, humid and buggy. Having a tent with a No-Seeum screen is Essential.

IN CASE OF LOCALLY MANDATED EVACUATIONS: All volunteers will have agreed in advance to leave the land when evacuations are mandated by local government in the event of an approaching hurricane and regardless of what the farm family chooses in regard to evacuation.
Online Mapping Notice: Mapping services frequently do not accurately locate the farm; Mailing address and Physical address are not the same. Once invited to become a service exchange guest on the farm, you will receive detailed directions to the land.

APPLICATION FOR SERVICE EXCHANGE GUESTS *** HERE IT IS … The ‘not so fine print’ stuff that we ask each potential service exchange guest to submit; with as much detail as possible when communicating with us regarding an interest in coming to learn/share on the land. Details are important and ‘no problem’ is not really an answer that works for us. … Please see that we have put a lot of information in this profile and offered extensive third party information in an effort to be most transparent about who we are and what others experience of us has been. We appreciate a genuine effort at transparency on the part of all interested folks. Please do us the courtesy of offering as much info as possible about yourself, as indicated below, when completing this application. Completing the application by answering all questions is quite necessary to limit the amount of ‘back and forth’ emailing of questions on both sides. Keep This In Mind: There are no *right* answers and the more info the better for us. Most of the questions are simply to help us get to know you and how we might best consider service exchange opportunities that benefit us all.


Thank You Again for your interest!

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