Moses Kashem had a crazy idea — or so everyone else thought.
The son of a Muslim Indian father and a Catholic Italian mother, he wanted to turn the four unused acres surrounding a Miami Episcopal church into an urban organic farm.
His vision was that it could provide income for St. Simon’s Episcopal church, for him, and, eventually, it would provide fresh produce at your local Miami grocery store.
That day is here.
Whole Foods Market in North Miami has started selling produce grown at St. Simon’s Farm. The chalkboard sign went up this week and below it, a host of fresh vegetables that Kashem delivers himself twice weekly. There are several varieties of kale, Asian eggplant, packaged salad greens, heads of lettuce and radishes.
“I just wanted to cry,” Kashem said. “It was surreal to see your stuff on the shelves and people paying top dollar for your stuff. You feel kind of emotional.”
Kashem, a Miami native, came to the church as secular, following a girl he met at Florida International, where he studied farming. He eventually married that girl, Erin, at the church, with the entire congregation at their wedding. The parishioners became ardent supporters of his idea — they even picked out the farm’s logo — as detailed in “Farm to Chapel,” a Miami Herald story last fall.
So did Whole Foods, which had acted as a drop-off location for St. Simon’s Farm’s weekly subscription service for fresh vegetables, which is available online at Kashem’s Urban Vegetable Project.
“It’s so impressive to see the quality and diversity of product that Moses is able to grow on such a small plot of land right here in Miami,” said Aristoteles Gonzalez, produce coordinator for Whole Foods Market’s Florida Region. “The produce grown at St. Simon’s Church farm is as fresh and as locally sourced as it gets.”
And the farm is expanding. Kashem refurbished a 2,400-square-foot greenhouse so he can grow vegetables throughout South Florida’s scorching summer. On the outside land, he will grown heat-tolerant veggies adapted to the climate, including heirloom watermelon and bok choy. And he continues to sell to local restaurants such as MiMo’s Pinch Kitchen, which revamped its menu around locally farmed ingredients such as St. Simon’s.
“We really want to showcase Miami urban farming,” he said.