Wednesday, October 27, 2010

3 Boys Farm welcomes Hawai'ian Fusion Cuisine innovator Roy Yamaguchi

L-R: Roy's Restaurants Corporate Chef Kiel Lombardo;
Robert Tornello;
Roy Yamaguchi

It has been an exciting and busy October at 3 Boys Farm. Last week, we had the honor of welcoming Roy Yamaguchi (of Roy's Restaurants fame) to the hydroponic facilities in Ruskin.

Yamaguchi, along with Corporate Chef Kiel Lombardo, Robert Tornello, and 3 Boys' Greenhouse Manager Michael Lenas, toured the wildly productive shadehouses, where our guests were able to see the kind of quantity--and, most importantly, quality--that 3 Boys Farm can produce, consistently and year-round, without needing to use dangerous pesticides or genetically-modified seeds; without draining Florida's threatened aquifer; and without the large carbon footprint traditionally associated with the vast majority of commercial food-growing operations.

Chef Kiel Lombardo;
3 Boys Farm Greenhouse Manager Michael Lenas;
Roy Yamaguchi

One of the many nice things about growing hydroponically and organically is that visitors can sample a crispy, sweet pepper, a juicy cucumber, or a firey arugula leaf right where they're standing--there are no worries about soil or pesticides needing to be rinsed off.

Yamaguchi was especially impressed with the current eggplant crop:

Still, it's hard to not be in the mood for a lovely fresh salad after walking through rows of tables like these:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Congratulations Robert! 3 Boys Farm receives Environmental Leadership Award (with VIDEO link)

Last week, Robert and Deborah Tornello traveled to sunny Daytona Beach, and at a breakfast ceremony on Friday, October 15, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson recognized 3 Boys Farm, Saturiwa Conservation Area, and Arapaho Citrus Management with his 2010 Environmental Leadership Awards.

Be sure to see the fantastic video that Rick Lurding--Radio & TV Producer/Director for the Florida Department of Agriculture--made of 3 Boys Farm, which premiered at the breakfast (in Flash). You'll be so impressed, with both the farm itself and the lovely filmography and well-written narrative.

Of course, we're terribly proud of Robert, who's been tirelessly working toward this very green dream for many moons. And in addition to thanking Commissioner Bronson, we'd also like to thank Rick Lurding, as well as Gemy Hinton, and of course, our intrepid crew at the farm.

A couple of snapshots of the breakfast:

Robert speaks about the importance of growing locally and
sustainably--not just in terms of Florida's farms,
but for the agriculture industry writ large

Commissioner Bronson and Robert Tornello

Thursday, October 21, 2010

October skies and 3 Boys Farm

This is a shot of our new (yet old) windmill, photographed at sunset. Gorgeous fall skies are a not-too-well-kept secret here on the Gulf Coast--we've traveled around quite a bit, and have yet to see a sunset that compares to the ones we enjoy here in western Florida.

(Well, sunsets in the Big Island of Hawai'i and Tucson, Arizona *might* have come close--we're admittedly a bit biased toward our home state. Still...)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

3 Boys Farm to receive Florida Agriculture Commissioner's Environmental Leadership Award

Executive Chef Jason Cline of Tampa's Bin 27, center,
selecting lettuces with Head Grower Michael Lenas (left)
and Robert Tornello (right)

The Florida Agriculture Commissioner's Environmental Leadership Awards will be presented this week at a state breakfast held in Daytona Beach. This honor is in recognition of 3 Boys Farm's innovative approaches to conserving rainwater and energy, and we're one of only three such honorees statewide.

Bravo, Robert!

From the Florida Agriculture website:

A model of conservation, the 10-acre 3 Boys Farm in Ruskin has integrated alternative energy sources with high- and low-tech systems to produce a hyper-efficient, sustainable 21st century farm.

While collecting rainwater in cisterns isn't a new idea, the way in which the farm uses the water is. Owner Robert Tornello harvests it from the roofs of his greenhouses to use as a base for the hydroponic growing solution and in the greenhouse cooling systems. Using rainwater reduces his annual draw from the aquifer by over 10 million gallons.

The hydroponic growing technique and greenhouse climate control system allows 3 Boys Farm to organically grow any vegetable or herb year round, a rare feat for a Florida farm. Customers -- including upscale, ethnic and fusion restaurants -- rave about the quality and variety of the produce and the ability to cook with vegetables and herbs, grown to their exact specifications, picked just hours before.

As others were leaving traditional agriculture, Tornello felt it was time to return with a new vision. Combining old techniques with advanced technology he wanted to grow a wholesome crop with little impact on the environment. At 3 Boys Farm he has succeeded.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

If you build them, they will turn...

"Thou hast seen nothing yet!"
-- Miguel de Cervantes, author of Don Quixote

The windmill is up!

Iconic and nostalgia-evoking, the windmill has been the energy workhorse of traditional farms for many generations, and it remains so today. 3 Boys Farm will soon be installing state-of-the-art solar panels, but when it comes to harvesting the wind, why re-invent the wheel, so to speak?

(By the way, the earliest eggplants--a test crop--were outrageously delicious: we sliced and grilled them, then dressed them with a simple balsamic vinaigrette. Soon, tomatoes. Grown without pesticides, of course, and sure to be as intensely flavorful as our first crops of basil, lettuce, eggplant, and cucumbers.)

Another Cervantes quote, then:

"In order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd."

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Hope grows sustainably and irrepressibly in New Orleans

Five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated one of America's greatest cities, a hardworking and talented group of urban farmers are bringing vegetables and vigor to a part of town where fresh produce had long been unavailable:

When the levee along the Industrial Canal failed back in 2005 and the wall of water drowned much of New Orleans' Lower Nine, the area north of Claiborne Avenue - the poorest section of the neighborhood - was hardest hit. Not surprisingly, the stretch has been slowest to recover. Five years after the devastating hurricane, the area still does not have a supermarket or store that sells fresh produce. Today, where houses once stood, jungle-like growths have consumed the lands. Other homes, still abandoned, are slanted and Burtonesque.

But just as strange is another thing in the neighborhood, right on Benton Street between North Roman and North Debigny. "We call it 'The Volcano'," says Brennan Dougherty. "We just started the compost pile back in April, and it's already almost 15 feet tall and 40 feet long." Then like a proud parent she adds, "It produces the most beautiful soil you've ever seen." Dougherty is the manager of a farm in the Lower Nine where organic vegetables are grown and goats raised where drug deals used to take place.

What's more, Dougherty is inspiring young people in other urban areas to plant and grow. Do read the whole thing--it will brighten your day!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Camera-ready and plate-perfect: New crops thrill documentary-makers and local chef

It was partly cloudy this morning, and the cucumbers were going wild (actually, better than wild)

Filmmakers from the Florida Department of Agriculture arrived early and will be here all week, preparing a documentary for the Commissioner's Environmental Leadership Award (to be presented this fall to a select group of businesspersons, including Robert Tornello)

And today, as always, we were greeted by pretty lettuces all in a row...

...which Chef Jason Cline of Tampa restaurant Bin 27 couldn't resist. He and Robert were talking salad ideas as he gathered the evening's offerings (our first customer!)

Mama loves looking at the flowers, like this delicate lavender eggplant blossom; the boys want to know when Nana can make some Melanzane alla parmigiana.

Ready for its closeup: just one of the scores of luscious butterhead lettuces we're harvesting today.

Red and green leaf-lettuces flourish in their nutrient channels.

3 Boys Farm makes the nightly news!

Sheena Parveen of Tampa Bay Fox interviews Robert Tornello at 3 Boys Farm:

RUSKIN - Robert Tornello is a laid-back environmentalist who's passionate about all things organic. He's a farmer at heart.

"This farm, to me, is kind of an expression of myself -- ha…not to get philosophical," he said.

3 Boys Farm is named after his three sons. Everything on his 10-acre farm was picked to lessen the impact on the environment. Insect nets line the greenhouses, eliminating the need for pesticides. The large fans save energy.

"So this way we cool the buildings and on the exhaust side we then capture that energy again and turn it back to power," Robert explained.

He captures, purifies, and stores 60,000 gallons of rainwater.

"We already know that we're going to withdrawal 10 million gallons less per year just from this one site," he said.

Solar and wind power will soon pump the stored water through the farm. Robert says the heat makes it hard for growing, but with cool, filtered water, it's a different story.

"This is changing that," he said. "I mean, it's basically like growing in an air-conditioned space."

Certainly something you feel the second you walk in.

Robert believes the results could be overwhelming -- growing in a smaller space with renewable energy, recycled water, and no pesticides.

"Where you would have 10 acres of tomatoes growing, as a quick example, you could do that in one acre of hydroponic greenhouses," Robert explained.

In the end, Robert hopes to feed the Bay Area healthy, affordable food, grown just as nature intended.

Monday, July 19, 2010

These are our living rooms

Welcome to farming reimagined.

From the skies, 3 Boys Farm appears so futuristic and spotless--immaculate, even. And that's exactly what our farm is all about: growing vegetables and herbs in a contained, pest-free environment without needing to apply dangerous chemicals to them. Using modern hydroponic and organic technologies and carefully controlled climate zones to maximize outputs of flawless, highly nutritious produce year-round. And doing it all in the greenest way imaginable, using sophisticated rainwater cachement systems and harvesting much of our power from alternative, green-energy sources such as wind and solar.

Let's show you around our sparkling, laboratory-like facilities.

Step this way, into the living rooms of 3 Boys Farm.

Greenhouses redefined: climate-controlled, with filtered rainwater stored alongside.

Support structures for the photovoltaic solar panels we'll be installing.

Inside one of the houses, cucumber vines are already flowering; soon they'll be climbing, too.

Seedlings burst toward the light in special above-ground trays; next they'll be transferred to custom-built hydroponic nutrient channels.

Our first crop: an explosion of fragrant basil. Success!

A closer view of a cucumber plant; they're growing in Dutch bato boxes.

Baby red-leaf lettuce are ready to be transferred to nutrient channels, too.

Tomato plants are just getting started, and so are we. Onward!

Welcome to 3 Boys Farm

This is our first post at the brand-new blog of 3 Boys Farm, a year-round organic and hydroponic farm growing vegetables and herbs in the Tampa Bay area.

We hope you'll bookmark this blog, as we'll soon be sharing lots of updates about our latest harvests, stories of interest, photographs, videos, and even some terrific recipes.

Welcome...and buon appetito!