Wendel's Farm & Nursery
In late January 2023, we had the great honor of visiting Wendel's Farm & Nursery in Lake Panasoffkee, Florida. The kind and generous stewards of this land, Wendel Martinkovic and Nancy Dwyer have been residing here for 20 years.
On this 24-acre ecological subsistence homestead, we found a hearty vegetable garden with a variety of greens, onions, peppers, carrots, potatoes and more specialized medicinal foods such as Yaupon Holly (a great caffeinated tea leaf), Chickasaw Plum (edible fruits change from red to yellow when fully ripe. They may be eaten raw and are often made into jellies), and Cherry Laurel (great for pollinators).
Animal Husbandry: Water buffalos and chickens happily live on this land. These sweet creatures create particularly great fertilizer, help till the land, and provide eggs and meat when they have grown to a ripe age. They also have a worm bin that is starting to take off and will enhance their already fantastic compost.
Composting toilets are used to collect humanure and they have a bucket containing biochar specifically to collect urine. The urine starts as a sterile, nutrient-rich liquid that soaks into the char and provides a feedstock for the microbes that move in later. Though many people have "fecal-phobia" this practice when done right is sanitary, odorless, and an amazing way to harness our natural processes and no longer waste precious fresh water.
Food scraps from prep are generally given to the chickens and water buffalos. Anything that is too far gone for them goes straight into a compost bin to decompose.
Ecologically Built House:
Nancy Dwyer used her high-level college degrees in Wildlife Ecology, Zoology, and Art History to design a beautiful, modern house that needs no AC. It's a 4-bedroom house with lots of room for hosting guests and a large kitchen. The second-floor windows release the heat that rises and the house is never warmer than 86 degrees even in FL's hottest summers. For warmth in the winter, they have a stovepipe furnace in the center of the home. They hang a line to dry their wet laundry to keep some moisture in the air and get their clothes crisp.
Although we have encountered many people who practice "dumpster diving" which is essentially rescuing food before it's sent to a landfill, Wendel and Nancy describe their diet as "freegans." They visit the dumpster area of grocery stores and get all the food that is sitting next to the dumpster, most are still in the packaging and only "dumped" because the "best freshness" expiration date had elapsed that day or someone returned it for whatever reason. They eat and give away all the food that is still prime and healthy and the rest goes to feed their livestock, worms, and/or garden compost. They also practice freeganism by bartering their many offerings and services in exchange for food.
As many FL citrus growers know, Citrus greening, a bacterial disease, is spread by a tiny insect, called the Asian citrus psyllid. A large variety of citruses are growing on this land. A few of the oranges, lemon, lime, calamondin, and tangerine trees they planted have some signs of greening but they have found that the least they interfere with the natural processes of the trees, the better the trees are at warding off the greening. The back portion of their property has been allowed to grow wild on its own. And there are hundreds of wild tangerine trees thriving here without a single sign of Cirus greening. Wendel credits the phenomenon to Mother Nature knowing what's best.
Currently, Wendel's proudest accomplishment is stewarding a garden for children in his local town of Lake Panasofskee. He uses his knowledge of agriculture to teach little ones how to make rich soil, grow, and harvest food. The children take home most of the bounty and any left over goes to the local food bank.
Nancy works for the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission helping our state make responsible ecological decisions for the betterment of our natural world. She's also a guardian ad litem, a volunteer position that involves being an advocate for neglected, abused, and abandoned children who have been removed from their homes and placed in the custody of the dependency court system. With no family available to speak for them, the child’s fate falls into the hands of the courts. As a Guardian ad Litem volunteer, she provides a voice and emotional support for these children as they go to court hearings, doctors appointments and other interactions that require adult advocacy.
Visitation and Produce Purchasing is by appointment only.
Services and Products include Native plants, organic fertilizers
environmental landscape consulting and Certified arborist work.