Ye Ole Davis Farm’s Organic Roots

Ye Ole Davis Farm represents a return to a simpler time

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Ye Ole Davis Farm. Photo by Steven Martine
Ye Ole Davis Farm. Photo by Steven Martine

It takes me several passes to find the place. Once I locate the red barn mailbox and turn in, I get a nice surprise. Ye Ole Davis Farm is a real working farm, and it is USDA-certified organic, the result of a process that is lengthy and costly, but well worth it to those who value health and purity. 

There is a party going on here this December day. Families sit at picnic tables and shop the vendors’ tents. Children climb on the mechanical bull, and farm owner Brian Davis serves hand-cranked homemade ice cream. The farm’s own Chef Jack Devine shows off his cooking skills, whipping up delicious crab cakes with remoulade sauce, fresh salsa, and a garnish of microgreens.

The farm’s own Chef Jack Devine shows off his cooking skills, whipping up delicious crab cakes with remoulade sauce, fresh salsa, and a garnish of microgreens. Photo by Steven Martine
The farm’s own Chef Jack Devine shows off his cooking skills, whipping up delicious crab cakes with remoulade sauce, fresh salsa, and a garnish of microgreens. Photo by Steven Martine

At just 5 acres, Ye Ole Davis Farm maximizes the land by planting the appropriate crops for each season. Farm manager Aubrey Temple shows me around. “We start planting for winter in October,” she says. “We’ll grow five different lettuces, bell peppers, jalapeños, goddess peppers, serrano peppers, shishitos, and Nassau peppers, just to name a few. Two types of kale, curly and lacinato (flat-leaf kale), and I can’t even tell you the number of tomato varieties that we grow.” 

I pick a richly red cherry tomato and pop it into my mouth. The flavor is like a delicious bomb going off. “Sungold tomatoes are our most popular; you can’t get them in stores,” adds Temple. “They don’t ship well for retail, but for farm to table, Sungolds are amazing. They taste like candy.” 

The 5-acre organic farm is tucked away along County Road 510 between a strip mall, a grocery store, and a subdivision. Photo by Steven Martine
The 5-acre organic farm is tucked away along County Road 510 between a strip mall, a grocery store, and a subdivision. Photo by Steven Martine

Farm visitors can pick their own produce or take advantage of freshly packaged offerings in the on-site market. Little is wasted due to the chef’s penchant for making sauces, jams, salsas, and canned items. “Our chef makes meals for breakfast and lunch and premade meals for purchase,” says Temple. “Anything left over that he can pickle and he has time for, he will pickle it,” she laughs. “Chef Devine has a broad background from small kitchens to five-star restaurants in South Florida. This is a good space for him to be really creative and have a free rein to pursue his visions as a chef.” 

Growing healthful organics is not the farm’s only focus. This is a gathering place for families and in-the-know locals. The place has an old-timey atmosphere that invites nostalgic memories of drives in the country to visit farm stands and pick fruit, but it is right here in Sebastian, across from Sebastian River High School. Every Wednesday through Saturday, Devine offers a variety of healthful fare until 2 in the afternoon. Picnic tables under the pavilion or a seat in the café, with its tin-lined walls, are both good hangout spots to eat without feeling pressured to give up your table for arriving patrons. There is plenty of room and plenty of time. 

Chickens on the farm. Photo by Steven Martine
Chickens on the farm. Photo by Steven Martine

To become certified organic, farms must adopt the national organic standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This process starts with the land, before any planting begins. Soil must be free of contaminants that may remain from a prior land usage. The soil must not have had any synthetic materials applied to it for three years, and it must be fertilized only by organically sourced products. This step is just the beginning of a meticulous, time-consuming process that includes record-keeping procedures that most accountants would envy. 

“We have to track all our plants from seed to harvest to point of sale,” says Temple. “Any amendments we put in the ground, our compost, and the potting soils we use have to be on the USDA-approved list for organic.” Even the flats that hold the seedlings must be approved for organic farms. The origin and number of seeds purchased and used are tracked, along with the number of plants resulting from those seeds and the amount of each product that was ultimately sold. “So,” Temple explains, “we can’t say we planted 10 bell pepper plants and sold 500 pounds of peppers; that doesn’t add up.” 

Once all the standards have been met, the farm selects a USDA-accredited certifying agent and pays the fees to be inspected. The completed application for USDA organic certification is submitted along with additional fees. Recertification happens every year, so costs of soil testing and inspections are ongoing. For small farms like Ye Ole Davis, buying everything from the USDA organic–approved list adds to price pressure. 

Even with higher production costs reaching the consumer at the register, the demand is robust. Nutrition Business Journal published a report in 2022 showing that sales of organic food products in the United States had doubled since 2010, reaching $52 billion in 2021. Fresh fruits and vegetables hold the biggest organic market share across a wide demographic of consumers.

Employee Nancy Wallace, Knoxx, and mom:farm manager Aubrey Temple inspect some of the 47 varieties of plantings at the farm. Photo by Steven Martine
Employee Nancy Wallace, Knoxx, and mom:farm manager Aubrey Temple inspect some of the 47 varieties of plantings at the farm. Photo by Steven Martine

At Quail Valley, Chef Joe Faria seeks to buy organic locally for the club’s three locations serving all four on-site restaurants. “Diners are interested in eating organic; they are asking for it,” he says. “Everyone wants to eat healthy and watch their chemical intake. We’ll take whatever we can get our hands on from the organic farmers here and incorporate that into our menus.” 

Faria appreciates the variety that comes from Ye Ole Davis Farm. “Davis Farm is special. It has a very homey feel, where the farmers are also the salespeople. We featured them at our market, and they brought beautiful lettuces, root vegetables, and tomatoes. Our members were impressed.”

Growing food from seed seems far removed from the end product found in stores. Farmers want us to remember where it all came from. Aubrey Temple likes to show the elementary school students bused in on field trips that the food on their plates has an origin story. “We get them planting and give them a tour,” she says. “I like showing them that their food doesn’t just come from a bag.” 

Temple’s long-term goal is to grow enough to wholesale the farm’s crops. “We are trying to get a better variety of crops all through the summer as well,” she says. “We are only in our third year here. Every day is a learning curve, and we try to better ourselves and our products as we go.” 

Mianna Baker and Romaine Frey greet café visitors at the farm. Photo by Steven Martine
Mianna Baker and Romaine Frey greet café visitors at the farm. Photo by Steven Martine

One thing that won’t change is the relaxed atmosphere. “Our vision is to make this a peaceful, happy, healthy place offering good food, good produce, good coffee, and good vibes.” 

Grow Organic at Home

The right soil, sun, and food for your organic vegetables will have you enjoying farm-to-table fare in just a few weeks.

The farm grows dozens of varieties of organic fruits and vegetables. Photo by Steven Martine
The farm grows dozens of varieties of organic fruits and vegetables. Photo by Steven Martine

Location, location, location: place your garden where plants will get six hours of sun per day, preferably before midafternoon. Lettuces, kale, and herbs can make do with about three hours and grow very quickly in our climate.

Contain it: raised beds can be purchased online, or do it yourself with plastic kiddie pools. Just drill some holes in the bottom and fill with organic soil before planting.

Protect your plants: screen enclosures keep hungry critters away from tomato and other fruit- yielding plants.

Start small: pots on wheels are a good option if space is limited, and they can be moved to ideal areas.

Food for thought: instead of standard liquid or granular fertilizers, look to worm castings, kelp meal, or fish emulsion to give your plants what they need to thrive.

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