For some people turning a passion into their full-time job poses a challenge, but not for couple Tamer and Claire Harpke, who gave up their corporate jobs for a more meaningful and modest farming gig: Harpke Family Farm in Dania Beach.
“At different times we both pressed the reset button — actually a couple of times,” Claire said. “ We were working in fine wine sales for several years and making a good living, but it was so stressful and such a grind. I kept thinking I’m 26 — I can’t imagine doing this for another 30 years.”
Their bounty includes purple kohlrabi, Genovese basil and purple shiso as well as a variety of leafy greens, vegetables, fruits and edible flowers.
The Harpkes also supply communities with fresh vegetables through a program known as Community Supported Agriculture. The idea is that people purchase shares of the farm in exchange for the perishable goods. It works as a membership available for weekly pickup of seasonal products that vary according to the growing season. A small share starts at $25 a week.
This November marks Claire’s second year becoming a full-time worker at the farm.
“It’s not as glamorous or romantic as everyone thinks, but we’re happy,” she said. “We’re working hard but we’ve never been happier, and we’re getting the response that we need to affirm we’re on the right track. In the market, people are really excited about what we’re doing. We’re making it work.”
In 2012 after Tamer’s mother suffered a stroke, he decided to make a permanent career change to stay by her side. An unfortunate situation eventually led him toward his life’s dream. He decided to pursue farming full time, growing a variety of microgreens — small nutrient- and taste-dense leafy greens used primarily in fine dining, which he calls his bread and butter.
“I decided to leave my wine career to focus most importantly on my mom and help her, and during that time off is when I really sharpened my skills more specifically with the microgreens initially starting in my backyard,” Tamer said.
For Tamer it’s about going with the flow of nature, protecting the land and sharing it with others. He’s created his own composting barrels, a water-reclamation system, and uses bamboo stakes grown on the property as a trellising system for his tomato vines. All of the produce on the farm is harvested in a sustainable and eco-friendly environment with no chemicals or genetically modified seeds.
The Harpke Family Farm is not USDA-certified organic. Tamer said it’s only a label and he’s not worried about applying for it because his produce speaks for itself. He said he’s transparent about the natural ingredients he uses to keep his plants healthy and invites the community to visit the farm to learn more about his work.
“It’s all about intuition. A lot of it comes second nature to me. From 15 feet away, I can tell if a plant has a virus because for the trained eye it’s very obvious and it’s so critical to be able to point out these things, especially a soil-born disease,” Tamer said. “So we pull it out, we put it in the garbage and get it off the property. We flag bags, and we’re very detail oriented here, but a lot of it is basics.”
Lisa Woodward, a Dania Beach resident who purchases from the farm, says that Tamer and Claire are offering a unique and tasty product.
“All of their food is amazing. It’s the best you can get. The tomatoes, the greens, the arugula — it’s delicious stuff. They’re doing a great job,” Woodward said. “Microgreens are big right now, people are cooking with them and garnishing with them. Tamer composts his own soil and he doesn’t use any chemicals. They’re not about anything that’s not the real thing. They’re the real deal. People should absolutely support their local farmers.”
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If you go
What: Harpke Family Farm.
Where: 2781 SW 36th St., Dania Beach.
When: Visits are available by appointment only. Call 305-528-3777.
More: To become a volunteer or intern at Harpke Family Farm, visit www.harpkefamilyfarm.com.