Like so many in the latest crop of farmers, Sharon and Peter Jaschinski didn’t start out as life as “traditional” farmers.
Rather, they were the desk-bound workers. He logged 30 years as a programmer for IBM. She began as an elementary school teacher, raised a few kids, got a job as a receptionist and later in human resources.
So by the time they retired – he in 1999 and she in 2001 – they were restless for a new life that didn’t have them squinting their eyes at computer screens, and hunched over desks. And while they might not have been working the fields for the first half of their lives, they certainly shared a passion for planting and pruning.
“My husband, ever since he was a kid, he was into growing things,” Sharon Jaschinski said.
They grew roses and raspberries in Minnesota, and vegetable gardens wherever they were. When they moved to Florida and bought three-eighths of an acre in Boca Raton in 1977, Peter filled it with orange trees – as well as all types of tropical fruits.
Then he tried out one tree whose fruit he’d never even tasted: “I even planted a lychee tree – it died, though,” Peter remembers.
In 2003, while attending a Rare Fruit Council meeting, they tried a lychee fruit – and noted its high price point. Peter decided he wanted his own lychee farm. Of course, it had something to do with the juicy, ripe, sweet flavor as well.
“We both loved it – we just loved it,” Sharon said.
They studied flooding patterns and found a 13-acre farm that was currently producing lychees in Loxahatchee Groves and bought it soon after. They harvested their first crop in 2003 – only to be hit the following year by Hurricanes Jeanne and Frances.
Today, with both at age 67, the farmers have a successful crop of lychees and, in addition, two acres of dragonfruit, three acres of blueberries, longons, sugar-apples, sapodilla, mangos, starfruit, jackfruit – any new challenge that Peter can find.
“He’s always trying to grow new fruits he’s never grown before,” Sharon said.
They bought what they call the “New Farm” in 2007 – that’s 20 more acres just a half-mile down the street for a total of 33 acres.
The Jaschinskis sell their fruit to local customers by appointment at the farm, or from their house. In addition, they supply lychees to Fresh Point, The Boys, Farmer’s Daughter, Bedner’s, Rorabeck’s, Woolbright Farmer’s Market, C & D, and other produce markets.
Now that lychee season is over, it’s dragonfruit season through November – and their dragonfruit make the trek out to Fresh Point, The Boys, Rorabeck’s and the Food Bazaar. They also can be purchased at their farm or home. In one week during harvest last year, the farmers gathered 900 pounds of dragonfruit.
Dragonfruit, with a head like a dragon and a bright pink inside, is difficult to describe in taste.
“Somebody said strawberry. I’ve never come up with a flavor,” Sharon said. “It’s very juicy, it’s great cold. It’s a mild sweetness.”
They also have sapodilla – which Sharon thinks “taste like a brown sugar pear” – and jackfruit, which grow up to 35 pounds here, though the fruit can grow up to 100 pounds.
As for their new life out at the farm, a life lived in long sleeves and pants to fend off mosquitoes, the couple says it’s a dream fulfilled.
“Now’s the time to do what you really want to do,” Sharon said. “My husband said he didn’t want to be a couch potato. He thought he would live longer if he was busy.”
ABOUT THE FARM
Lychee Fruit Store is a tropical fruit farm in Loxahatchee Groves. The farm sells fruit and fruit trees, which can be picked up at the farm or at the Jaschinskis home in Boca Raton.
To arrange a visit or purchase, call 954-234-0588; or visit LycheeFruitStore.com.