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How Many Ways Can You Cook Kale? Sweetwater Knows

What do freshly harvested salad greens, university accounting majors and weekly loads of manure from the local zoo have in common?

They are all integral parts of the community created around Sweetwater Organic Community Farm.

Nestled along the banks of Sweetwater Creek in Tampa’s Town & Country neighborhood, the main farm or CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) was founded by Rick Martinez almost two decades ago.

“We at Sweetwater consider ourselves a three-legged chair,” Martinez said. “And those legs are food and all the issues around food, health and environment. Then, the other leg is education and then the third leg is creating community. And we’ve created a very special, wonderful community.”

That community includes volunteers like high school and college students who help weed and harvest the crops. Each growing season, four apprentices join the farm and live on site from November to April helping tend the farm. There’s also a lead farmer, board members and shareholders who buy a share and in turn receive anywhere from 12 to 15 varieties of vegetables, herbs and greens weekly.

The Sweetwater community also includes partners like Lowry Park Zoo. The zoo provides weekly deliveries of animal bedding and manure that with proper care turns into rich compost.

And you don’t have to be a member to visit the farm.

Sweetwater holds weekly Sunday Markets during the growing season where the public can buy freshly harvested vegetables,  freshly baked pizza from a wood-fired oven, heirloom seedlings, handcrafted jewelry, aroma therapy and much more from vendors.

Yet Martinez’s true passion is education about the “farm to fork” movement, teaching people where their food comes from.

He said a Sweetwater member recently asked: Just how many ways can you cook kale? Apparently, the shareholder was frustrated with the abundance of the green. Sweetwater shares recipes and serving suggestions on its website.

Martinez said people should not mistake the CSA for a grocery store. The farm has growing seasons that dictate what veggies are included in the weekly shares.

The non-profit urban organic farm also hosts thousands of elementary school students during the week where kids learn about compost, planting, harvesting and get to eat a salad they pick from the garden.