In today’s world, sustainability and regenerative farming have become key and part of many restaurants’ programs. One company Chiles Hospitality is a fixture in the Anna Maria Island food scene by taking these concepts and creating a story about farm to table and table to farm. It’s a cycle of life within its own culture reflected throughout Anna Maria Island restaurants.
It started with Florida’s natural beauty and resources and a family’s mission to farming and the sea. Lawton Chiles fulfilled that as a Senator and Governor of Florida. His son, Ed Chiles, continues that legacy through outstanding work by adopting environmental policies in all his businesses. As a member of the United Nations World Tourism Organization affiliate, he serves as a faculty member of the USF Patel College of Global Sustainability. His restaurants, Beach House, Sandbar, and Mar Vista, are the only restaurant members of the Blue Community Consortium, whose goal is to protect Florida’s oceans, coastal habitats, and marine environment.
Gamble Creek Farms
Gamble Creek Farms is a leader in the Anna Maria Island food movement. The farm, located in Parrish, sits on 26 acres. The land is certified organic. It serves as a community with sustainability as its focal point and specializes in a sustainable closed-loop growing process. The produce is fresh, organic, and local. Gamble Farms is committed to sustainable practices, which include composting, mulching, and worm casting. The goal is to reduce food waste, thereby contributing to a healthy environment. One of the ways Gamble Farms accomplishes its goals is through permaculture.
Gamble Creek Farms services the produce at all the Anna Maria Island restaurants owned by Chiles Hospitality. They are Sandbar, Mar Vista, Beach House, and Anna Maria Bake House. When you dine at those restaurants, you enjoy the labors of love created on the Gamble Creek Farm.
Most of Gamble Farms’ philosophy is based on permaculture. The concept coined by Bill Mollison approaches land management and settlement design through a system that adopts arrangements observed in a flourishing ecosystem. Its basis includes the thoughtful design of plant relationships. One plant can help another. Twelve principles at the backbone of permaculture. They include the following:
- Observe and interact
- Catch and store energy
- Obtain a yield
- Apply self-regulation and accept feedback
- Produce no waste
- Use renewable resources and services
- Design from pattern to detail
- Integrate rather than segregate
- Use small and slow solutions
- Use and value diversity
- Use edges and value the marginal
- Creatively use and respond to change
From these twelve principles, the overall theory is the care for the earth, care for people and fair share. These guidelines aim to develop sustainable and resilient systems that support biodiversity, soil health, and water conservation. The farmer creates a design for plants to interact with one another through diversity, stability, and resilience, thereby creating a balanced ecosystem that sustains itself by nurturing the plants around it.
Visiting Gamble Farms
Taking a tour of Gamble Farms gave me a unique look at how permaculture works in conjunction with the farm-to-table, table-to-farm concept. Looking at the plants that comingle together on a farm plot reminded me of a jungle where the shade of a tree can help another plant. In this case, the nutrients of one plant help another.
Every scrap from each restaurant is brought to the farm and put onto a compost pile. Eventually, the compost goes back into the field. The most interesting are the oyster shells. Oyster shells offer an ingredient that acts as a soil additive. The shells add calcium to the soil, making it more alkaline. Fortunately, the shells do not release toxic material or greenhouse gases.
In come all sorts of birds, from pelicans, seagulls, and others, and they too help break down the waste food into compost. Literally, nothing goes to waste.
In addition, one can visit the Farm Market and purchase not only the produce grown on the farm but also the best products in the area. These include bread and pastries, milk and eggs, poultry, beef, pork and seafood, coffee, and more.
Anna Maria Island Restaurants
Some of the most popular restaurants are those owned and run by Chiles Hospitality. Their popularity is due to their location as beachfront property and quintessentially providing the Anna Maria lifestyle with fresh, locally sourced cuisine.
This is an excerpt from an article on Anna Maria Island restaurants I wrote for Wander with Wander in July .