CO-OWNER, KING FAMILY FARM
Back in 1963, Shelby King's in-laws, Susan and Robert King, bought a 104-acre property off Caruso Road in Bradenton. Shelby and her husband, Ben, liked farm life so much that they took over some of the acreage to start the King Family Farm in 2004. They have 20 acres of blueberries in Myakka and 10 acres of peaches and two-and-a-half acres of vegetables in Bradenton. They have three year-round employees, and at the height of season add another 62 to payroll. On Saturdays in April and May, they will be running a farmer's market on their property.
How did you choose the farming life?
Both of us come from families involved in agriculture. My parents ran a lawn and garden store in Palmetto, but my father grew sweet onions as a hobby. Ben's parents grew citrus on their property. Today Ben grows the produce, and I handle the marketing and special events.
Why did you close your five-day-a-week market at your Bradenton farm?
It was not lack of interest. We were always busy. But we have certain standards for what we grow, and that turned out to be much more expensive than conventional growing. It was hard for me to charge enough to cover the cost and still make money. In effect, we couldn't compete with Publix.
Do you have any new plans for the farm?
We're going to feature a range of special events, including field trips to show children and adults how foods grow. I've also started farm-to-table dinners each Wednesday night at the farmer's market complex on our property that serve about 30 people.
Benefits of farm life?
It has been great for our three children. They take care of the 40 sheep and the donkey that protects the sheep from coyotes. I also see my daughter, 13, doing major things in the way of healthy foods. She picked fresh spinach this morning to make a green smoothie for her breakfast.
The Omnivore's Dilemma.
Your goal in five years?
I want to have 100 people every week for farm-to-table dinners and programs with local schools to educate children on the basics of growing food. I also want to be out of debt.
What keeps you going?