Honeyside Farms has been supplying fresh vegetables to local restaurants, clubs, hotels and farmers' markets for years. Now the farm can use a new word to describe its produce: "organic." Honeyside officially received its United States Department of Agriculture organic certification late last year.
Honeyside was previously located on seven acres in east Sarasota; the farm bought 11 acres in Parrish in 2018, and kicked off its first full growing season there last year. Moving made earning the organic designation easier. A farm situated on land that was previously used for non-organic agriculture must follow organic practices for three full years before it can label its food organic. Because the Parrish property was formerly pastureland, not farmland, Honeyside didn't have to wait for that time to pass before applying.
According to Honeyside owner Tiffany Bailey, pursuing the organic certification made sense because customers at the farm's Sarasota Farmers Market and Phillippi Farmhouse Market stands often ask about the farm's growing practices. Bailey says showing them the organic label is the easiest way to explain the farm's sustainable standards. Honeyside grows 12 varieties of tomatoes, several types of leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers, strawberries and more, and also bottles honey. Bailey also helped create the Florida Beef Alliance, which brings ground beef from local ranchers to restaurants.
In addition to selling directly to customers, Honeyside supplies vegetables to a number of restaurants, including Gecko's Grill & Pub's many locations, Indigenous and Lila, plus The Ritz-Carlton, the Sarasota Yacht Club, The Field Club and Morton's Gourmet Market. Each summer, Bailey meets with restaurant managers to estimate what their produce needs will be during the farm's growing season. The restaurants will then commit to buying certain amounts of vegetables throughout the year. That allows Honeyside to more accurately gauge how much produce to grow. Honeyside's Ida VanDamme then communicates with clients from week to week and manages the twice-weekly deliveries.
Bailey calls it a "grow-to-order" system that is adjusted each year. "We're always trying to get better and be a better farm," she says.