Vero Beach Magazine Excerpt – Local Flavor – Nov 2012

Linda Hart is a licensed poultry farmer and entrepreneur who has started growing pumpkins on her Crazy Hart Farm in Fellsmere. Her pumpkins are heirloom Seminoles, one of the oldest varieties grown in Florida. “I started experimenting with the Seminoles for personal consumption and they have really taken off,” she says. She will likely have plenty to sell at the Oceanside Farmers Market on Ocean Drive this fall.

“The Seminole is very good-tasting – sweeter than other varieties of pumpkin – and it is an indigenous fruit that has been growing around here for hundreds of years. I think it is important to bring back the native foods of the area.”

Linda’s pumpkins grow on vines on the ground, but she says that Florida pioneers were surprised to see them climbing up trees where they picked the pumpkins high off the ground. “The Indians would girdle a tree with the vines to grow the pumpkins so they didn’t have to pick through any foliage to harvest the fruit.”

Linda is also experimenting with ways to cook her pumpkins. For instance, the flowered blooms of the fruit can be battered and deep fried. “Basically, pumpkins are simple to cook. Just cut them in half, scrape the seeds out and put them face down in a pan and bake them. If you want to be traditional, you can make pumpkin bread and fry it. This is what the Miccosukee and the Seminole Indians still do today for their powwows.”

In addition to their adaptability, pumpkins and other winter squashes have a long shelf life and will keep for months if stored in a cool, dry place between 55 degrees and 60 degrees.

VBM_Local-Flavor-NOV2012

 

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Though winter squash is now plentiful, many cooks ignore this veggie’s edible pleasures.
DON’T SQUANDER THE SQUASH!
BY MARY BETH VALLAR
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DENISE RITCHIE

Vero Beach Magazine Excerpt – Local Flavor – March 2012

Crazy Hart Ranch owner Linda Hart has been raising meat chickens, Cornish game hens, heritage turkeys and laying hens for a more modest nine years. The business began as a backyard operation but became commercially certified in 2007, spurred by a phone call from Chef Michael Lander a year earlier. Hart has been rallying for small-farm interests statewide, most recently helping to re-write rules pertaining to eggs and poultry. If all goes well, she says, she’ll soon be able to sell eggs without the “for pet consumption” label currently required due to some bogus food safety concerns. Once building codes for processing facilities are created, Hart also plans to start her own small-scale poultry processing plant rather than rely on the only currently approved facility in Ocala. Pre-slaughter, between 2,000 and 3,000 birds roam freely on at least five grassy acres in Fellsmere throughout the year. Hart says she’s happy to have buyers visit the ranch and inspect the feed anytime.

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Indian River County’s small farmers are struggling to meet a growing demand for fresh produce from chefs and consumers alike.
EAT LOCAL, EAT FRESH
BY DEBORAH BORFITZ

Vero Beach Magazine Excerpt – Local Flavor – Nov 2010

“Because of the homogenization of the American pallet, everyone is accustomed to a turkey that has been injected with saline or whatever else the producers use. But if someone who has only tasted a mass-produced, broad-breast turkey were given both to try, he or she would notice the difference right away. A fresh turkey, produced by someone like Linda that has had nothing added to it, has what I would call a very clean taste.”

Hart’s turkeys are Heritage Breed turkeys with smaller breasts, longer legs and bigger wings, “because they actually fly,” she says. Their breeding makes them naturally moist and flavorful.

A moist turkey is what every cook hopes to achieve but often fails, ending up with dry meat. Because white meat cooks faster than dark meat, Chef Lander explains, the breast meat could dry out before the thickest part of the thigh is fully cooked. So to solve the problem of dryness, besides constant and vigilant basting during the roasting process, he suggests brining the turkey.

VBM_NOV2010

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A NEW TASTE FOR THANKSGIVING
BY MARY BETH VALLAR
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DENISE RITCHIE

Vero Beach Magazine Excerpt – Jan 2010

Linda Hart is the only farmer in Indian River County who is licensed by the USDA and Florida Department of Agriculture to sell poultry. She raises chickens and turkeys on her five-acre Crazy Hart Farm in Fellsmere. Now in her third year, she produced 1,000 chickens her first year and doubled that number the second year. This is still considered small, but is big enough for the one-woman operation. Hart markets to many of the same clubs and restaurants as O’Dare, as well as to a growing number of private clients.

“It’s not just high end,” she stresses. “Ordinary people who are concerned about health, safety and quality for themselves and their children are also very good customers.”

“They realize that buying locally is the only way they can know exactly what they are getting. Big processors have accountability to the government; I have accountability to my customers. If I put out a bad product, I will be out of business before the food safety people ever get to my place.”

Hart starts with chicks from hatcheries that are out of state and raises them from three to eight weeks, feeding them a specific high-protein diet. “At three or four weeks, we produce a Cornish game hen; at six weeks, we have a chicken and at eight weeks, a roaster. It’s all one bird, and just depends on how long we grow it out.”

Hart handles her own processing at a plant in Ocala, which is one of the requirements for her license. “I hire a crew of six to eight and we can process 300 to 500 chickens in one day.”

She sells her poultry at both the Oceanside Farmers’ Market and the Fort Pierce Farmers’ Market, and is gaining recognition and support from local chefs. Chef Landers ordered 300 Cornish game hens for Christmas for the Moorings Club. And Jeff McKinney, executive chef of the Orchid Island Golf & Beach Club, sponsored a turkey tasting for Hart in 2009.

“Jeff invited a number of chefs and caterers and he cooked one of my turkeys and a brand-name turkey,” Hart says. Everyone rated her locally raised turkey far superior. This past holiday season she provided over 160 turkeys for local family and restaurant dinners.

Hart is also gaining professional recognition. Last summer at the Florida Small Farmers’ Conference, sponsored by the University of Florida and Florida A&M, she received one of three prestigious Florida Innovative Farmer Awards.

VBM_LocalFlavor-JAN-2010

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BUY LOCAL, BUY FRESH
BY MARY BETH VALLAR
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DENISE RITCHIE

Field to Feast – The Local Palate – October 2012

Field to Feast: Recipes Celebrating Florida Farmers, Chefs, and Artisans (2012)

Pam Brandon, Katie Farmand, and Heather McPherson have compiled a beautiful book of Florida’s bounty that feels like a drive through the coastal woodlands and the country roads of the Sunshine State. Full of portraits of the people who grow and cook the plethora of foodstuffs Florida offers. Field to Feast is at once a travel companion, coffee-table book, and useful cookbook. The recipes are diverse: Chefs James and Julie Petrakis of The Ravenous Pig offer an Alsatian Tart with Spring Peach Salad, which contrasts nicely with Brined and Herb Butter-Basted Turkey from Crazy Hart Ranch in Fellsmere. It’s a delicious and unique portrayal of a thriving culinary landscape.

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