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Sons & Daughters Farm and Winery offers a taste of country in suburbs

With free-range hens contentedly roaming, a winery where hibiscus wine is made and an organic farm with everything from fragrant holy basil to loquats, sunflowers, kale and yuca, the 17-acre enterprise off Lantana Road is like nothing else in Palm Beach County.

In April, David Bick, 42, and Teal Pfeifer, 33, opened Sons & Daughters Farm and Winery to the public. The county’s only winery, it includes a retail space and tasting room that’s open Thursday through Sunday. Farm tours are offered at sunset.

“There’s an interesting phenomenon of people who are originally from elsewhere — something about being at the winery feels like home for a lot of people,” Pfeifer said. “They have been looking for somewhere warm, fuzzy and comfortable where they can have some sort of connection, but not that Palm Beachy corporate thing. They would rather be with us and talk about chickens.”

Bick spent six years building up the soil at his family’s former commercial nursery at 5926 Fearnley Road west of Lake Worth and learning how to grow the right crops for the climate year-round; how to produce kombucha, a fermented, effervescent tea drink; and more.

The rustic buildings and laid-back setting that includes Vinnie the pig and her eight piglets are part of the appeal. Pfeiffer and Bick live on the property with their three daughters.

Customers such as Christy Hahm of Lantana say the friendly atmosphere draws them to the oasis in the midst of the suburbs to talk and sip the bright red-pink hibiscus wine. There’s also tapioca pudding, frozen “popsicles” for children and adults, eggs for $10 a dozen and edible flowers such as nasturtium.

“It’s not what you’d expect down here. Everything is so big,” said Hahm. “You go to this little farm. It is just one little dirt road. There are picnic tables. Everyone is so nice. They explained what kombucha is and how they make it and the wine.”

“You feel good about what you are drinking,” said Hahm, who purchased a half dozen bottles of wine and kombucha.

The wine is made from hibiscus sabdariffa, which is unrelated to the hibiscus found in many Florida landscapes. It’s also known as roselle, Jamaican sorrel, sour-sour and Florida cranberry — and valued for its nutrients.

“On any given day, when it comes to the winery, we pick what is at peak ripeness, then decide what to do with it,” Bick said. “We might make a loquat nectar.”

For Bick, Pfeifer and their eight employees, it’s about more than organically growing small quantities of about 50 items, including mangoes, sunflowers, sugar cane and herbs. Employees’ wages are above the norm for farm work.

They’re on a mission to bring growing food back to basics and help people to learn how it’s done.

“It’s so important for people to know how simple this really is,” said employee Brittany Pruneau, who was working with a hand-held hoe in the field before heading to the winery.

Instead of fighting Florida’s subtropical climate and using fertilizers and pesticides to enable plants to grow here, they’ve found plants that are naturally more suited for the environment. Bick developed a water-and-clay mixture to help protect fruit from insects.

They’re also practicing polyculture, planting a wide variety of crops, as opposed to monoculture, where hundreds or thousands of acres of one crop are planted in the same location.

With polyculture, if a disease shows up that wipes out the banana crop, the peaches, olives, pomegranates and figs will still be intact, Bick explains. The insect there to munch on a particular fruit might encounter another insect after a different fruit nearby, and be consumed by it.

“We are very much science-based. We want to cultivate plants in a way that we do not have chemical interventions. But we want to be able to produce a lot in a small area and create food,” said Bick. “We put it back in nature’s hands by putting organic matter into the soil.”

Bick said he has purposely avoided planting citrus, because of greening disease that has spread throughout the state, and avocados, which are being harmed by laurel wilt disease.

The family’s ownership of the land goes back to when David Bick’s father, Ditmar Bick, came to Palm Beach County in 1982 after expanding his business, Florida Grower’s Supply, which provides packaging to the produce industry, from New Jersey.

In 2005, after Hurricane Wilma destroyed the greenhouses and other nursery structures on the property, they opted to get out of the nursery business and not try to compete with the big box stores. David Bick decided to create the organic farm.

David’s sisters Rachel Bick and Nadine Berkowitz are equal partners in the venture and work there fulltime also.

Dittmar Bick provided the initial investment and encouragement as his son overcame hurdles, such as the five years it took to obtain federal, state and local permits, and he fully supports not using chemicals.

Customers such as Nick Mitchell of Delray Beach appreciate the effort.

“I go there three times a week to buy kombucha,” Mitchell said. “It’s the best I have ever tasted. It’s great to know all the ingredients come from the farm you are drinking it at and that it is grown organically with no pesticides. I love supporting places like this.”

David Bick says he’s happy with the progress made, and adds, “We might not have all the answers yet, but it is the right thing to do.”

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