Fall Harvest

These local farms offer unique dining experiences that bring the season’s freshest ingredients to the table.  

Written By Melissa Peterson 

The goal of most small, family-owned farms is to find unique ways to put the produce and products they grow and raise directly into the hands of those who live in their communities, to bring the freshest items to those who need them the most. Farmers, especially those who operate under a small-scale agriculture model, are increasingly looking for ways to diversify their businesses. For the communities surrounding those farms, that means unique opportunities to experience those farms and benefit from the items they offer. 

From farm-to-table dining experiences and community-supported agriculture memberships to farmers markets, food education programs and restaurants that serve produce picked directly from the fields and plated it the same day, the following small farms are excellent examples of all the ways food can bring people together. 

Frog Song Organics

For Amy Van Scoik and John Bitter, co-owners of Frog Song Organics, using food to bring people together was just one motivation behind their partnership. 

“We wanted access to healthy, delicious food for ourselves and our family,” says Amy, “and we saw an unmet demand in the southeastern U.S. for locally grown, organic produce as a great opportunity to start a business. Every year the demand has grown, and our production has grown along with it.”

Their partnership began in 2011 with six acres and has grown to over 60 acres and a team of over 30 people. The farm, located east of Gainesville in Hawthorne, grows a wide diversity of vegetable and fruit crops, as well as pasture-raised heritage hogs and laying hens for eggs. 

Frog Song Organics takes pride in the agricultural practices it employs on the farm, including using natural hay mulch that will biodegrade and build the soil. The farm uses a combination of USDA-certified organic and regenerative practices. It also incorporates animals into its farm rotations and uses chickens and pigs to help work the land and provide natural fertilizer.

“Chefs and our CSA members have told us they can taste a difference in our food,” says Amy, “and they keep coming back for more.”

CSA, or community-supported agriculture, began as a way for farmers to work directly with the people they are feeding to cover planting and operational costs instead of going to a bank for a loan. Members give seed money and commit to a farm for a season, and then they generally receive a weekly share, or distribution, of the harvest of fresh fruits and vegetables. 

“Think of it as a reservation in our field for your groceries for the season,” says Amy. “When we have an abundance, you get extra, and when weather or other issues affect crops, it may change what the box looks like a bit.”

Members can join the farm’s CSA for about $40 to $72 per week, depending on where they pick up their produce and the size of the share they choose. Frog Song Organics is looking to partner with more local businesses and groups in Marion County to establish more pickup locations. A Frog Song Organics CSA membership means you get to try different foods at the peak of their flavor and nutrition, plus receive recipes on how to use the produce and invitations to on-farm events.

“At Frog Song Organics CSA, members make a commitment to the farm,” says Amy, “and together we produce high-quality produce grown in an ecologically and socially responsible manner. Each week members pick up tasty, fresh produce at one of our convenient sites. CSA membership helps you experience the seasons through food. [Plus] we really like getting to know our customers and seeing familiar faces each week. We love seeing families nourished by healthy food.”

In addition to the farm’s CSA memberships, they often welcome guests to the farm for special occasion dinners, such as the benefit dinner happening on November 18 for the Giving Garden in Gainesville. The farm has hosted everything from barbecue dinners to multi-course tasting menus. 

“[The dinners] are a chance to showcase our ingredients and have a place-based experience, take a walk on the farm and enjoy being outdoors,” says Amy. “We usually do one or more dinners per year, but we’re working on a commercial kitchen and looking forward to hosting more regular dinners in 2024.”

Frog Song Organics has worked with chefs from the Ocala, Orlando and Jacksonville areas, bringing in unique dishes with food grown at the farm. The chefs are usually customers of the farm who want to try out something different or to help benefit a community organization. 

Other upcoming special events taking place on the farm are the Cane Boils happening in December and January where you can observe how sugarcane syrup is made, the farm stand where you can stock up on fresh veggies and the “Meet Your Meat” walking tour of the farm. Frog Song Organics also hosts its spring festival, which usually happens on the third Saturday in March, and the strawberry U-pick during the months of April and May.

“We love sharing what we have created here at the farm with our community, to taste flavors you cannot find at the grocery store, to inspire people to cherish the land, and to honor and value the work that farmworkers do to feed the community on a daily basis,” says Amy. “We also feel that it is our duty and obligation to share access to the farm land we steward with the community through dinners and our semi-annual festivals. Our festivals are educational events and free-of-charge, and we welcome everyone.”

Frog Song Organics


Bountiful Farms & Bistro

A farm that began out of a true love of food—that’s the start of the story of how Gareth and Jessica Gentry opened Bountiful Farms almost 13 years ago. 

“The farm started from absolutely nothing,” says Gareth. “No growing beds, water lines, greenhouses or store. The farm was started with a shovel and rake. We didn’t even have a tractor.”

A family-run farm, Bountiful Farms is located in Okahumpka, just south of Leesburg, and grows a wide variety of leafy greens, lettuces and seasonal products October through May on its 10 acres. While Gareth and Jessica no longer run the daily operations at the farm—they’ve embarked on a new journey with a new dream—the farm is still family operated, with Jessica’s sister, Ginny Feathers, who has been a part of the farm for years, running the farm. The nursery is owned and operated by Lindsey and Josh High.

The farm grows over 120 different varieties of crops seasonally, with staples including heirloom tomatoes (Cherokee Purple and Brandywine varieties), cabbage, kale, broccoli, carrots, bok choy, sprouts, onions and peppers. Bountiful Farms practices organic farming standards but is not certified organic and operates on a micro-farm style where every square foot is used. 

“The thing Jessica and I love most about farming is the process,” says Gareth. “It’s a true labor of love but can be something that tears you to pieces at times. Our principles have always been honesty and integrity, even when it hurt us.”

As any farmer knows, weather is out of your control but can make or break your seasonal harvest. The Bountiful Farms fields were under water in September and early October, putting an end to any hope of the farms’ CSA business this year. 

“Mother Nature has a funny way of slowing you down,” says Gareth. “[We] lost all of the first harvest plants. This is the pain and suffering that farmers go through—we’re at the mercy of Mother Nature. CSA is very important [though] to both the community and the farmer. Both can benefit greatly if it’s a good season, but there are inherited risks with the program. A perfect example is what happened this season. There are no guarantees the program will be successful due to weather.”

Thankfully, Bountiful Farms has another way to bring the community and the farm together for the love of food—Mama Ganoush’s Bountiful Bistro. 

The farm had been operating for five years before the bistro came to fruition. 

“We always had an idea of a farm-to-table gig,” says Gareth. “It was in the making for a while, and finally being able to cook the food was a great blessing. Pleasing customers was a great satisfaction for the both of us. Also, diversification is extremely important in any business adventure you take on.  When one is suffering, the other holds it up.”

The bistro, operated by Reem Showman and her two chefs, is located on the farm’s property and is situated under a majestic live oak, providing shade and a beautiful dining experience in nature. The menu offers a wide variety of American and Mediterranean cuisine, including classic chicken and fried cod sandwiches, a grilled avocado stuffed with chicken appetizer, beef or chicken shawarma, lamb gyro and more—all made to order. The bistro also just added fresh fruit smoothies to the menu this season.

“The Mediterranean items have unique flavors full of spices and layers of flavors,” says Gareth. “You just have to try it. Our chef is from the Mediterranean area, where she was born and raised before moving to America.”

The bistro is open Wednesday through Sunday, 11am to 3pm, and you can check out the full menu on the farm’s website. While the cuisine is to die for, the setting makes the dining experience unique. 

“The food and staff are wonderful—very good people,” says Gareth, “[and] it’s a place where you come to enjoy the beauty of a natural setting. That setting does include music, either from a singer or surround sound throughout the tree. [The setting] is very important to us because it came from the heart.”

Bountiful Farms also hosts a farmers market on Wednesdays from 9am to 2pm, where a large variety of outside vendors come and sell their products, including soaps, cheese, bread, jewelry, meats and more. You can check out the farm’s website and Facebook page for all the details on the location. 

“Our establishment is very different than most,” says Gareth. “It’s a place you can come to pick up produce, have lunch and shop for landscape plants at the nursey. It’s a place to come relax and enjoy nature.”

Bountiful Farms and Bistro 


Brave Harvest

All parents know that veggies and kids can sometimes have a stressful relationship. Even the smallest serving can send some kids into a dinnertime tailspin. Brave Harvest, a non-profit teaching farm in Gainesville, offers programs that can help kids—as well as adults—increase their food literacy and empower them to make healthy food choices. 

According to the organization, it can typically take eight to 15 exposures for children to accept a new food. This wasted food can add up quickly, so many kids do not get the exposure they need to veggies to develop a taste for them due to the cost. 

The programs offered on the Brave Harvest farm give kids plenty of chances to try new veggies in an environment that is supportive and encouraging. Kids who have gardening experience eat more veggies and have a better understanding of nutrition. The organization gives kids the opportunity to get their hands dirty and learn the basics of gardening. It also shares creative and delicious ways to eat and enjoy the veggies they’ve grown on the farm at home. 

Brave Harvest offers classes that teach youth how to grow and eat from plant to plate, as well as how to cook the plants they’ve grown. Eat Your Plants is an interactive program that introduces children ages 1 to 5 to gardening and vegetables through music, stories, gardening activities and more. At each class, kids get the chance to try a new vegetable snack harvested from the farm’s garden. These classes are provided on a donation basis. You can find the schedule for the classes on the organization’s website. 

Brave Harvest