Garfield Jarret served in the Marine Corps until he was injured in Iraq during a roadside attack. When he returned to the United States, he attended Florida International University (FIU) to receive his undergraduate and graduate degrees in social work.
As an FIU student, he learned about the FIU Veterans and Small Farmers Outreach Program (VeSFO). The intent of this program, funded by USDA, is to provide veterans, socially disadvantaged and new farmers in South Florida with necessary technical information, farm entrepreneurial skills and access to government assistance programs they need to start and sustain viable farm operations.
“I did all the different types of therapy you can do as a veteran,” Jarret said. “I tried them all but didn’t get the same connection as I get when I work with the land. I can live a happy and healthy life.”
Jarret has been the owner and operator of Cool Runnings Organic Farms in Homestead, Florida, since 2014. He currently raises goats, poultry and rabbits. He also grows a variety of vegetables and tropical fruits such as longans, starfruit and jackfruit.
“I grew up on my grandfather’s farm in Jamaica. He had 140 acres of sugarcane and some animals as well,” said Jarret. He moved to the United States when he was 12 years old.
To further enhance his operation, he participates in the FSA Microloan program, which finances the needs of small, beginning farmer, niche and non-traditional farm operations, such as truck farms and farms participating in direct marketing and sales, such as farmers markets.
Products from Cool Runnings Organic Farms can be found at the Pembroke Pines Farmers Market through Whole Foods, Doral Farmers Market and Wynwood Farmers Market. He sells his produce to other vendors who sell his produce at other South Florida farmers markets. In addition to farmers markets, he sells his products to restaurants and hotels.
This week, USDA is joining farmers, like Jarret, in celebrating National Farmers Market Week. Farmers markets give consumers access to locally grown and farm-fresh products, while giving farmers the platform to grow and connect with their customer base.
“As a consumer and a farmer, I think it’s important to know where your food is coming from,” said Jarret. “Not only do I get to feel satisfaction from the fruits of my labor, but I’ve also gained so many contacts by going to markets.”
Jarret’s business is community oriented. He collaborates with FIU’s Agroecology Program to help educate students.
“I have students each semester needing to meet community involvement requirements,” he said. “They get a first-hand knowledge of what farming is like and the difficulties of it. Having that knowledge, they can go and create tools to assist farmers.”
Aside from students, he works with veterans to teach them how to farm, teaches community volunteers about agriculture and also works with a faith-based halfway house to help people find a life purpose.
Celebrate National Farmers Market Week by visiting your local farmers market and supporting the farmers who supply fresh produce and products to your community. Use the National Farmers Market Directory to find a market near you: https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets. To date, there are nearly 8,700 markets in the USDA Farmers Market Directory.