Grow and package fresh and safe nutritious fruits and vegetables which customers want and are willing to pay a fair price for, enabling sustainability, growth, and innovation in fresh produce production.
KAI KAI FARM is forty acres 9 miles west of I-95 in Martin County's Box Ranch citrus production area. There are 20 (net) acres for vegetable production although only about 10 are ready now. The farm, initially built between 2003-2011 is of latest design as it incorporates all water conservation and surface water engineering features to mitigate pollution of our rivers and aquifer. The ground is virtually flat; and the sandy soil contains about 0.5% native organic matter. Drainage is all on-site and consists of about 1 mile of ditches and two one-acre ponds built to retain several inches of rainfall. The vegetable growing area is regularly laser adjusted with just a small slope for sheet flow drainage of the raised bed system. Our full-time pressurized irrigation system for the miles of drip tape each season is supplied by three 4-inch wells each about 85 feet deep. The well water, high in calcium carbonate mineral, is somewhat alkaline with a pH of 7.8. The site is master planned with 3-phase underground electrical services to four service areas and two other building pads reserved for future construction. Over two thousand eucalyptus, juniper, oak, palm and bamboo trees have been planted to provide protection from the frequent winds. All the landscaping is irrigated with water-saving drippers and sprinklers. Numerous bird houses have been built and installed by our good friend Doug Brown; he also built a large bat house for the farm and it will be erected in February 2013.
The Kai Kai philosophy includes recycling and that accounts for the conversion of 40-foot steel shipping containers into buildings and storage on-site. The front pole barn is for planting operations and postharvest packing; it includes an adjacent greenhouse used to grow starter plants called plugs and has also been the site of numerous special events featuring our farm-fresh produce prepared by chefs. Walk-in coolers are used to rapidly chill down the just-picked produce (accounts for its extended shelf life). The back barn built of four shipping containers double-stacked serves as office, maintenance, storage and irrigation control. A composting area is under construction and includes two custom-built production units—one for vermicompost and one for compost.
Diane Cordeau and Carl Frost, married in 1988, share a passion for growing niche-vegetables in the very demanding Treasure Coast climate. Both worked at the University of Florida Indian River Research and Education Center while Carl obtained his undergraduate bachelor of science in horticulture. Diane worked in the entomology lab and Carl in the citrus lab. They purchased a run-down 40-acre citrus block and this began the process of real education! Carl formerly worked in real estate sales, management and appraising while Diane retired, after 25 years, from cabin crew at Air Canada followed by a few years at a Florida landscape nursery and apprenticeship at Green Cay Produce in Boynton Beach.
Farming is a seven-day-a-week proposition because insects, weather and customers never take a holiday. Even with automated irrigation it is necessary to keep a close eye on baby plants which can get stressed with the slightest change in their environment. Over 50 vegetables are grown and each must be harvested at their peak of perfection. Every day Carl and Diane go on foot patrol; they seek new pest infestations (bugs, fungi, bacteria and weeds), water deficits (or abundance), and harvestable produce. Imagine walking on the beach all day—that's what it is like at the farm with its soft sandy soil. Diane calls it the spa. It's a great way to stay in shape but the hours are long, farming goes on regardless of the weather and finally it's a dirty job (but we love doing it for our customers).
Kai Kai Farm is not organic certified although most practices comply. There are some exceptions. The irrigation water is pH adjusted with phosphoric acid instead of acetic or citric acid, some fertilizers are conventional and the greenhouse is built of pressure-treated lumber (instead of steel). Non-GMO seeds are always used and a great majority of seed is certified organic.
We expect that in time we will find the way to full organic certification once the cost of organic inputs is lower and a full record-keeping/tracking paperwork system is implemented. Kai Kai follows Best Management Practices and sustainability in its vegetable farming. The soil is amended with locally produced compost at 30 tons/acre each planting. All vegetables are grown on 3 foot wide 6 foot spacing raised beds most with plastic mulch. Irrigation is by drip.
Food Safety compliance is a high priority. In response Kai Kai built in 2012 a produce wash water well which is inspected by Martin County Health.