We had the good fortune of connecting with Jodi Swank and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Jodi, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I was born in Brooklyn, East New York in 1964. My mother Irene was in textiles and my father Lou was a kosher butcher. My sister Karen was 12 years my senior and my brother Howard was 8 years older then me. When I was 8 years old, my family moved from East New York to Canarsie, a residential neighborhood in the Southeastern portion of Brooklyn. I graduated Canarsie HS in 1982. I went to college for one year in Sheepshead Bay Brooklyn, Kingsborough Community College. Here I majored in Travel and Tourism. During the summer of 1983, my parents suggested I get a summer job or go back to school. I decided I wanted a job! I purchased the NY Times for the classified section. I found an ad for a Travel Consortium that owned a Travel School. I called for the appointment and was asked in for an interview. Lee Braunstein, President of Space & Leisure Time at 5 Penn Plaza, NYC interviewed me. I was 17 years old in August of 1983. I was hired. He offered me $ 150.00 week. I came home to tell my parents and my mom said with happiness, “You’ll need to ask for $ 25.00 more per week for your commute”. I contacted Mr. Braunstein the next day and asked for $ 175.00. It was honored! My mother always taught me, if you don’t ask, you don’t get! That has stayed with me always. I worked for the company 4 years in NYC and 10 years in Pompano Beach and Boca Raton. Mr. Braunstein was one of the best bosses for my first job. I was lucky enough to travel extensively throughout my time with the company. I met my husband Darrin in 1992 at Club Boca in Boca Raton ! At that time, Darrin was an electrician and part time lawn service owner. Both of us had great jobs and very nice savings . We married in 1999 and in the same year, purchased 20 acres of land in Loxahatchee Groves, WPB. Darrin wanted to be a farmer!!! He took 2 years to research hydroponic farming and studied to see if there was a need for specialty crops. We had our 1st daughter Isabelle in 2000. In 2001, after 9/11, the travel industry fell apart as did the world! We were ready for the next chapter of our lives as Farmers! Living in both Coconut Creek and our farm in Loxahatchee, we commuted both ways, 1 hour each way, for 5 years. During this time, I had my son Liam in 2002, and my daughter Sophie in 2004. At the advise of our accountant, he suggested we buy a tiny house rather then a big house and expand on our farm to make more income to build the big house one day in the future. We took his advise and purchased a 400 square foot park model trailer home for the farm. We moved the five of us into 400 square feet in 2007. Our new home on the farm! We lived in our tiny trailer for 14 years. We all learned how to share one bathroom, no privacy at all, listen to three TV’s all at once, and all squeeze on our three person coach. I’ve always told my children to be grateful for what you have. In 2018, we finally started construction on my dream home on the farm. A 4,100 square foot farmhouse! Two weeks ago we moved into our brand new farmhouse. We will refurbish the trailer and use as a guest home. I am grateful to have had the best parents on earth. They were hard working, straight forward, middle class, loving people. I am proud to have them for a short time in my life as they both died at early ages. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of each one, and all that I have learned from them. I just hope that I can continue to teach my children to be strong minded, tell the truth, never give up, always ask or you won’t know and to please look in the eyes of the person you are speaking with. All of this will make you a better person on this planet!
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Swank Specialty Produce, is a hydroponic and sustainable farm growing over 350 varieties of lettuces, specialty greens, baby and full size vegetables, micro greens, micro herbs, tomato’s, strawberries, edible flowers, and wild flower bouquets. We sell our products to the best chefs through Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County. 10 years ago, we started Swank Table, Farm Style Events. We invite local and national chefs to our farm to cook multi-course meals for up to 200 guests while benefiting small local charities. We have live music, local brewers, sommerliers, and craft mixologists. We started our farm in 2002 with 3 products – lettuce, arugula and basil. Instead of selling our products to distributors, we decided to cut our the middleman and go directly to the chef! So in 2003, with two small children, I decided t o take samples to the back doors of local restaurants in Palm Beach Country with my two babies in car seats in the back seat. My children were my good luck charms. There was not one chef that did not allow me in with my samples and kids. Our produce was different, not the norm. Our sample box of lettuces always spoke for itself. For 10 years, Swank Farm produce was on every best restaurant menu in Miami, Broward and Palm Beach. When Covid hit in March, 2020, the restaurant business went down and so did the farmers! We had an abundance of produce in our fields and shade house, so we started a Swank Farmers Market with 26 vendors weekly on Saturday’s from 10am to 1pm. We have been very lucky to have Daniel Boulud, Emeril, Mark Murphy all cook on our farm. We were on a couple TV shows as well… Emeril’s Florida and Man, Fire Food! Swank Farm is celebrating our 20th year anniversary in Dec 2020, We’ve come a long way!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
We love taking guests to local restaurants. One of our favorite small restaurants is Jewell Bistro in Lake Worth. Dak Kerprich the owner is one of the best cooks I know! That is our “go to” place for dinner. Florida beaches are beautiful so driving along the coast is another favorite day away. A weekend in Miami on Brickell would is fun too!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have a few people that I’d like to recognize. First, Lee Braunstein, President and first boss. He allowed me to travel to so many parts of the world and trusted me to bring back knowledge and education so that I was able to continue selling travel packages to all types of people. He also gave me my first job in NYC where I loved to work! Judith Olney, friend and mentor – is a two time, James Beard Award winning cookbook author, chef, and green market guru who has taught me so much about food, event planning and true friendship and last but not least Darrin Swank, my husband who took me from the city to the country where we live a simple life with our amazing three children where we grow and eat the best and healthiest food.
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