We had the good fortune of connecting with Jason McCobb and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jason, how do you think about risk?
Risk I believe is the center behind all business ventures and my business is no exception. What I do now is not exactly what I first aimed to do, my business has evolved over the years. I am proud to say that November 2020 marked Farmer Jay’s 10 year anniversary. Before I started Farmer Jay upon my return from a farming internship with my mentor Bob Cannard in Sonoma California who has been growing food for Alice Waters and her restaurant Chez Panisse for 40 years, I went door to door knocking and trying to share what I learned in California. I was awoken while in Sonoma Valley and enlightened about sustainability. This is a whole other story, but the message was clear and I was determined to let farmers and local Palm Beach County Agriculture Extension Agents know. I remember my first conversation with Palm Beach Agriculture Extension agent on what I had discovered about sustainable and organic agriculture, a conversation with real evidence of footage I recorded while on a farm in California, where I pleaded my case and was requesting for the county to help me with land to demonstrate my findings. The county has agricultural land they own and lease back to farmers at discounted rate, but typically farmers lease hundreds of acres… I only wanted 10 acres. He proceeded to tell me I will never make it as a framer and if I wanted to survive I needed to buy produce from overseas and become a wholesaler. I left that office obviously feeling defeated and knocked on just about every farmer in Palm Beach County’s door. Most slammed the door in my face saying I would never make it, but there were a few that said their hands were tied because they were working on such thin margins and could not afford to attempt anything I was proposing. This was when I realized I was on my own and I could not rely an any assistance from my local agriculture community.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Coming from my time with The Breakers I learned about creating World Class Gardens. I remember one time after a harvest of a lettuce bed, I left the plants down to a bristle. He called me into his office and questioned what I did. From there on I adopted a new harvest technique what I called “Selective Harvesting” where we planted extra and left more leaves on the plant. It was this idea that sparked me to create the gardens that I make today. I saw that people wanted to grow food, but would hide the beds in the corner. I wanted to create a new space for people, the garden had to be beautiful empty as we are waiting for plants to grow. When I started people would say “I’ll take one bed on the side of the house.” Now people show me their backyard and want to create elaborate “Kitchen Gardens.” Now with the rising problem of iguanas, my latest Iguana Proof gardens are pretty much all I make. This has been my latest challenge in making a cage protecting our plants from these beasts look good.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My friends all joke and call me Grandpa McCobb because I as I get older I am early to bed, early to rise and don’t socialize much. I guess I got all my wildness out when I was in the Army and in my 20s. I am a home body for the most part. My idea of a great time is some whiskey and grilling out with friends. That said if I were to take out my best bud, we would start with dinner at Farmer’s Table in Boca and then head over to Kapow in Mizner Park for drinks after. At the end of the night we would go to The Smoke Inn in Delray Beach and have a cigar or pipe.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
In getting to where I am today, I could have never done it alone. At the top of the list is my wife Denia who not only supported me, but pushed me to do what I love. Even at our lowest when I was a new father and had no income and was chasing a dream that nobody in our community believed, she was behind me. She was actually the one who named me Farmer Jay, originally I was not going to brand myself. There are two others I am indebted to for where I am today. The first is Bob Cannard, rockstar farmer in Sonoma, CA longtime farmer and probably the most sustainable farmer out there. It was his philosophies that I learned the most from. I met him the first time when I was growing food for the chefs at The Breakers in Palm Beach. I was blown away by our conversations and hungry for more I went back a year later and spent a summer on his farms. The other person is Craig Peschl of Atlantic Landscape of South Florida. After having just about every door in Palm Beach County being shut, he and his wife Beth took a chance with me. They allowed me to work with them on their five acres in west Delray Beach and at their garden center at the time in east Boca Raton called Ellenville Garden Center.
Facebook: Farmer Jay Pure Oranics
Jason “Farmer Jay” McCobb TEDx Boca Raton