A glimpse of Utopia
Stepping foot onto Jubilee Organics Farm feels like entering utopia. You arrive at this vast open space lush with plants, crops, and beauty everywhere. It’s tucked into a neighborhood in Northwest Bradenton and it doesn’t feel like you’re in the right place until you continue a few yards down the dirt path. Owner Ryan Duncan grew up just up the street from what was a vacant lot, which had not been farmed since the 1950s. Sitting empty, the lot had been for sale for five years when Duncan bought it.
“I feel like this land has been waiting for me,” Duncan says.
Duncan, has glowing youthful skin and a lean build, but this wasn’t always the case. As a young adult, he had stomach issues caused by a poor diet and careless lifestyle. By the age of 30, he was on prescription medication for both his stomach and high blood pressure.
Knowing it wasn’t right to have high blood pressure at such a young age and that prescriptions were a dead-end road, he decided to make a major shift and the idea of Jubilee Organics was born.
“We are medicating medicine. There is a solution: food that hasn’t been grown with poison.”
As an established businessman, he had no intentions of building a farm. He feels the farm was a calling to him to grow pure, healthy food and medicinal plants—which he describes as “beyond organic”—and to educate the community and next generation how to grow their own food and stop putting pesticides and GMOs into their bodies.
This 3-acre farm project was built to replicate what nature intended, he says: “Man ‘improved’ a perfect design.” The objective is to help restore the farming system and to regenerate the soil to where it was 2,000 years ago. In commercial agriculture today, he says, the soil has no life in it, no natural defense mechanisms like insects and worms meant to do specific jobs, hence the use of present-day pesticides.
“We have decided to put our money where our mouths are and invest in the development of a regenerative food forest that will nurture our family, but, just as importantly, teach others how to grow their food. It wasn’t too many moons ago, almost everyone knew how to grow something; nowadays very few people know how to grow anything.”
The evolution of modern-day grocery stores and fast-food chains developed in his parents’ generation, the baby boomers. Convenience prevailed and this era didn’t carry the torch of growing their own food; they lost sight of the importance of locally sourced food.
Duncan is passionate about “getting back the birthright of growing local, healthy, fresh, seed-from-seed food. Everyone should be growing something, even if it’s in a windowsill garden.”
Two out of three meals a day for Duncan are foods straight from the garden and dinner is whatever his family is having. He explains this way of eating is a gradual shift. He doesn’t force it on his kids; they are regular kids who eat pizza and burgers, but they have just as much knowledge and enthusiasm as their dad about the crops and the essential nutrients they provide.
“The main objective is to get the children acclimated to the notion that it is ‘normal’ to grow our own food and much more ‘abnormal’ to trust a grocery store to source it for you. It’s imperative to teach our children that they are responsible for being the gatekeeper for the quality of the food that goes into their bodies and the bodies of future generations!”
On the ground where we stand, Duncan looks down and declares that there are 2,000–3,000 worms under our feet. There are also layers of fungi, spiders, and insects. “They all have a job, naturally. The soil is so alive, so full of life.”
Harvest after harvest, the soil and the food get better and better because the soil is getting better. In awe, I ask how he keeps this up and he answers, “I don’t have to do it. If you build good soil, it takes care of itself and we don’t have to add poison in an attempt to redesign a perfect design.”
Jubilee was built to be self-sufficient and is equipped with solar panels; rainwater is collected for irrigation. There are over 10,000 plants, vines, and trees that are medicinal, beneficial, and edible. We taste our way through the farm, sampling tart cranberry hibiscus, mouthwatering sweet guava, and raw okra. His son Fin hands me a berry from a strawberry tree that tastes like cotton candy.
We walk among Fakahatchee grass, which stays evergreen in subtropical climates; past passion fruit and root malanga, a starchy vegetable higher in fiber and more nutrient dense then a potato. Other crops include bananas, avocado, papaya, yucca, olive trees, Chinese spinach, and Brazilian cherries that have a cult following and are pest resistant and high in antioxidants.
Duncan starts his day with juice made from a superfood green, moringa, which is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, riboflavin, iron, and protein. The leaves can be made into a tea that is used to ward off colds. We walk past fragrant lemongrass, Cuban oregano, and vibrant purple basil, three ingredients Duncan uses to make a tea. “I feel like a such a rock star after drinking it,” he says enthusiastically.
We weave through the grounds and in the center of the farm is a thatched-roof yoga hut built from bamboo grown on the land, a surprise gift for his wife and a place where the family gathers in the shade—a spiritual space and a sun reprieve.
Duncan says Jubilee Organics is not only a place to grow beautiful nutrient-rich food, it is a place to bring friends, families, and marriages together, a place of restoration and regeneration. Although it is not open to the public, parties and festivals may be hosted there and you’ll be able to access this bounty at the Bradenton Farmers’ Market. You can follow them on Instagram @Jublieeorganics and on their YouTube channel Jubilee Organics to find out more and to get a glimpse inside this utopia.
Jubilee Organics: jubileeorganics.org