What do farmers do when a pandemic threatens their business? They go back to their roots.
When Carl Frost and Diane Cordeau first started Kai-Kai Farm on 40 acres of Indiantown land in 2007, their business relied on community supported agriculture boxes and GreenMarket sales. Over the years, they fostered relationships with chefs from face-to-face time at the Palm Beach Gardens GreenMarket and developed a clientele of restaurants and country clubs. Then in 2013, the Florida legislature passed an agritourism bill that allowed farmers to open their land to the public for education and entertainment. Frost and Cordeau, who met on Riviera Beach back when she was an airline attendant and he worked in real estate and married in 1988, launched a popular dinner and brunch series and began hosting weddings and private events. “Just over half of our revenue came from hospitality,” says Frost.
COVID-19 changed everything in a matter of days, causing widespread event cancelations and restaurant closings across Palm Beach and Martin Counties—and the country for that matter. “Eighty percent of our vegetables sales were institutional restaurants,” Frost explains. “All that’s left are our core of retail restaurants.” Thousands of dollars in weekly sales from the GreenMarket also vanished when it closed down.
Despite this, Frost remains positive and maintains that there’s a silver lining. He says, “We’re still selling produce and keeping people healthy.”
Now, the couple are once again relying on CSA and farm stand sales. For these eager to find fresh, local produce it’s a glimmer of reprieve from the maddening experience of trekking through the grocery store or waiting days for an Instacart delivery.
Shoppers can visit the on-location farm stand, featuring produce from Kai-Kai and a number of other local vendors such as Circle Bar C Goat Dairy and Castronovo Chocolate, on Saturdays and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The shopping area is limited to 10 people at a time and everyone must wash their hands upon entering. Masks are required for both vendors and shoppers.
Kai-Kai also offers curbside pickup for its CSA boxes on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Each box, priced at $44, contains 12 vegetable varieties. Order online here for a seamless, contactless way to pay. While the farm grows 80 different kinds of vegetables, availability depends on what’s ripe and ready. Right now, Frost says some of what they are picking includes “escarole, frisée, kale, carrots, spring onions, kohlrabi, and tomatoes.”
“I would have never imagined doing a curbside or drive by [situation],” he says. “But we’re thankful to be helping people stay healthy with beautiful fresh, local vegetables.”