In what part of town do you live?
Near Miracle Mile and Coconut Grove. I think the official neighborhood is called The Pines.
How long have you lived in Miami?
I’ve lived here all my life, I was born and raised here.
Growing up here, did you always plan on staying?
I wouldn’t exactly say I planned it, but I never really saw myself leaving. But now, I really don’t see myself leaving. I definitely love everything about South Florida.
‘Definitely,’ what comes to mind?
Oh gosh – First and foremost is the fruit. Then kind of everything else, the culture, my family, my affinity for the ocean, and as I get more and more into the plants, the ecology of South Florida. And, the community too.
It’s intriguing that the first thing you mentioned is fruit. Why fruit?
I grew up as a pretty picky eater. It wasn’t until about 18 that I really started discovering different foods. I was pretty hard-headed and had to figure it all out on my own. I started going to the Pinecrest Market around 2012, and seeing all the fruits at your stand. That led to getting involved with different groups and exploring the gardens around town. Just seeing the variety and diversity of fruit that we can grow here blew me away. I jokingly say that I want to be here in Florida, eating the last mango as we succumb to sea level rise. Knock on wood, hopefully we don’t.
You have taken this interest and turned it into your focus of education. Would you share about the path you’re on?
It’s definitely been a winding road. My parents gave me the space to explore and figure out what I wanted to do. My dad told me he didn’t really care what I did as long as I stayed in school and enjoyed what I was doing. The last couple of semesters of my associates degree at Miami Dade, I started taking environmental courses. That spring-boarded me into some internships, and then I started at FIU as an environmental science major. That’s when my affinity for plants and the natural world really started to explode. I didn’t really realize that I could turn it into a profession. Opportunities just kept opening up. I got to intern on an organic farm, and then the USDA. The last one I did was at TREC, which got my the foot in the door there. I’m about to start my third degree as a Master’s student there in August.
Would you tell us about TREC?
It is the Tropical Research and Education Center. It’s University of Florida’s southernmost research center. Mostly it’s Master’s students, PhDs, and postdocs. We have a bunch of different visiting scholars. It’s a research station mainly focused on tropical fruit. My Master’s will be in agronomy with a focus in agroecology.
What does that mean?
Agronomy is crop science and soil science. Agroecology is the ecology of an agricultural ecosystem. It’s looking at the farm and more broadly, the whole region, as an agricultural system and seeing how these different farms and the different landscapes speak to each other.
Which part is most interesting to you?
I’m definitely interested in helping make farms more sustainable or even just more diverse. I’ve seen some farms that might be too diverse and they’re having trouble finding a market for some of their crops because they’re so spread out. But, I also feel like that could be a good thing. Having all of that variety can be a buffer from different shocks or crop failures from diseases, pests, or even hurricanes.
Our farm is working with TREC on the Hemp program. Have you been involved with that research?
That’s more of the agronomy side of the lab. I was heavily involved in the preliminary research. We we’re looking at the three different production systems for hemp – fiber, grain, and essential oils. The most common oil is CBD, but there is a new focus on CBG. We visited your farm and helped harvest the first run of your essential oil crop. You actually had some really beautiful plants out there. I really enjoyed your planting methods. You’re one of the only ones who did it holistically.
You mentioned first discovering us at the Pinecrest Market. What brought you to our stand?
It was the Turmeric Tonic in combination with the Rainbow smoothies, and the delicious fruit. You have some of the best jackfruit and mameys that I’ve ever had. And, your stand is the first time that I discovered red bananas and that just blew me away. The Turmeric Bagels are phenomenal. And, I love the freeze dried turmeric candies and the smoothie ones too. It’s inspiring too. I get to see what can be done with all of these great fruits and vegetables.
What other businesses, restaurants, or places are you going to regularly that you can recommend?
I am a big fan of vegetarian and vegan cuisines. There’s Vegan Cuban bakery in Kendall. It sounds like an oxymoron, but their vegan croquetas are a magical thing. I love Indian food. They probably get plenty of publicity already, but Bombay Darbar in Coconut Grove. There’s a really great Thai spot off eighth street in Little Havana, called Lung Yai. It’s a tiny little spot, it’s always packed, and they have quality food.
What is Miami’s best kept secret?
It would probably be your fruits. I brought a friend there recently and she was really blown away by the quality of the product and your hospitality. It’s so refreshing.
What for you is a worthy splurge?
I’ve been trying to just stay active. So, once a week I’ve been trying to do some kind of activity that can kind of tease out some exercise. After we left your stand on Sunday, we went rock climbing right across the way.
What community groups or philanthropic groups are important to you that you might like to promote or share?
I get involved with the poetry festival every April, called O, Miami. They put on so many great events during the month of April. Another that we’re about to enter, is Latino Conservation Week from July 17th to July 25th. There’s a slew of amazing events focusing on getting outdoors to learn about conservation and different spaces. I’m hosting one of the events, at Amelia Earhart park on Saturday, the 24th at 10:00 AM. It’s going to be myself and another beekeeper named Adrian Perez, the bearded beekeeper. It’s going to be a double workshop with an introduction to beekeeping and then how to build habitats for pollinators.
Are there any other events during the week that you’re excited to attend?
There’s going to be a nature walk at Bill Bags Park. If you’re into mycology, there’s going to be a mushroom talk with a good friend of mine. He’s going to run through an introduction to mycology and what are the best mushrooms to grow outdoors in South Florida. I’m growing some myself because of him. I have some blue oyster and some pink oyster mushrooms.
How can readers get in touch with you?
You can find me on Instagram. My personal account is plantman_Dan. If you want to talk about beekeeping, my rescue business is called bee_wranglers. I’m connected with the FIU beekeeping association. I do a lot of educational events in conjunction with them. I’m actually doing one this weekend at Fairchild.
You said ‘rescue.’ Does that mean if someone has an unwanted hive at their house you would rescue it?
Yeah, absolutely. That’s the service that I provide, rescue and relocation.
Is there a question that you would like to ask us?
I’m curious about the freeze-drying process. It’s really cool. I love the Turmeric melts. I want to see what else you guys are working on for freeze-drying. Where is that going?
(A+W) One of the things we may be able to use them for is processing the hemp flowers. We are looking into ways of introducing our CBD crops into what we offer at the store. The machines are a way to preserve something without any additives or requiring refrigeration. The possibilities are wonderful.
Is there a challenge, words of advice, or a question that you would like to pose to the community?
Question your relationship to food at the most fundamental level. Now more than ever, health is wealth. I really believe that it starts with every bite.