Story by Tiziana Onstead
Video by Luke Barber
Not far from the beaches and metropolitan areas of Jacksonville is a small countryside that’s only minutes from downtown. Urban Folk Farm is the home of 40 rows of crops, chickens, a dog named Jack, and owners, Alina Gonzalez and Simon Hoek Spaans.
Gonzalez says she’s a city girl who wants to serve nutritional and valuable food to the urban people, “hint the name.” The husband and wife left Miami’s white sandy beaches for a backyard with a red barn and seven acres of greenery back in 2014, and their farm’s gates have been open ever since.
“I love it! I was born to be a hostess,” Gonzalez said. “I love to have people around, and this place is incredible.”
Farming, hosting events and field trips, selling at farmers markets, and holding daily stands and visits at the farm, this couple isn’t short on any work.
“We worked very hard at growing, high quality vegetables with a very high freshness factor because we harvest our vegetables as they’re ordered,” Gonzalez said.
The farm is pesticide free, and it’s something the couple take pride in, especially since they do it all by themselves. Gonzalez said she and her husband feel everyone should have access to local organic produce, but not at the organic price.
Urban Folk Farm also contributes to several farm-to-table restaurants in Jacksonville, such as This Chick Can Cook, Beachside Seafood, and 904 Restaurant.
“We want this place to be a place for the community, not just for us,” Gonzalez said.
This natural oasis was created to enrich guests’ visits, showing them the farm’s fresh ingredients that stretch across the land while providing them an experience they won’t get anywhere else.
Urban Folk Farm provides people with moments they won’t get at the grocery story, like seeing the very first fruit budding on an orchid tree or eating a sorrel weed and realizing it’s a delicious citrus element for a homemade vinaigrette.
“We want people to be educated on the food that they’re eating, and how they can grow it, what’s good, what’s in season,” Gonzalez said. “And just to experience the ambience too.”
In addition to Urban Folk Farm, Celestial Farms, Fresh Start Hydroponic Farm, Braddock Blueberry Farm, Harrietts Bluff Farm are open to visitors and host tours and events for schools and businesses. Farmers markets, such as Riverside Arts Market and Beaches Green Market, are another great way to meet farmers and taste a glimpse of the fresh experience the farms offer.