Growing “to order” is the M.O. of Honeyside Farms. Before farmer Tiffany Bailey plants a single seed in her field, the future crop already has a designated home.
“We still have this basic business model that, I think, is a little different than everyone else does it: We grow to order,” says Bailey, who has run the Sarasota operation alongside her family for about seven years. “We know where everything is going before we plant it, and we really have the best, most loyal customers.”
The customers come to the Phillippi Farmhouse Market and the Sarasota Farmers’ Market for Honeyside Farms’ fresh, local produce. As a fourth-generation farmer and former University of Florida agriculture student, Bailey works with her father, Jack Bispham, and siblings to cultivate eco-friendly fruits and vegetables. The family uses nontoxic bio-rational pesticides and provides produce for area restaurants and co-ops.
They also run a full-scale sod operation in addition to the farm. At Honeyside, which includes eight employees outside of the clan, Bailey is in charge of irrigation, nutrient management and all things related to cultivation. Every day is different. The Florida weather and the produce market are always unpredictable.
“The most challenging part of this work is the inability to control Mother Nature, and also competing,” Bailey says. “Making your prices somewhat competitive, when there are corporate farms out there that produce 300 acres of tomatoes at a time, is tough. I can’t have 99-cents-a-pound tomatoes.”
But she can grow the highest-quality tomatoes. She also harvests U-pick strawberries, which are among the farm’s most popular items for the general public (growing from mid-February through March). Other output includes eggplant, broccoli, snow peas, sweet peppers, Swiss chard, onion sprouts, Romaine lettuce, zucchini, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, squash, and watermelon.
“The most fulfilling part for me about this work is—as a wife and mother—working alongside my family and being able to provide them with this fresh, healthy food,” Bailey says.
The rewards of farming certainly extend beyond Bailey’s own household. Honeyside’s restaurant client list includes Gecko’s Grill and Pub, S’macks Burgers and Shakes, Sarasota Yacht Club, the Field Club of Sarasota, Dry Dock Waterfront Grill, and Morton’s Gourmet Market.
“It’s really cool to go into the community and eat at a restaurant and see more and more local produce popping up,” Bailey says. “When I see our logo on a menu or a specials board, that’s pretty cool. To know we’re employing people in this community and that what we put out is being consumed, I think there is no price tag you can put on that.”
► Honeyside Farms: 7850 Ibis St, Sarasota, 941-405-0015; honeysidefarms.com