Like many area farms, Ambrosia Acres Family Farm in Naples stems from one guy's attempt to put food on the table.
“It was just an overzealous attempt at providing the house with as much food as possible,” says Erik Peterson, who graduated to full-fledged farming about 15 years ago with the help of Eliot Coleman's pioneering books on organic gardening. “I had no farming background whatsoever, and neither did my immediate family.”
After graduating from college with a degree in conservation, Peterson went to work maintaining a forest at a Boy Scout camp. The job was lonely, however, not to mention dangerous. “I finally had too many close calls and said it wasn't for me,” he says. “Those trees will squash you like a pimple.” - Farming can also be isolating, which he says was a big factor in his seeking out farmers markets.
Not that life on the farm is so dependable, either, even with the steady income that a CSA can bring. “I often refer to the type of farming I do as Russian roulette,” he says. “I can be killing it all week and then get to the market and it's pouring rain. So then you head to the food banks or the shelters because you just want to see good food get eaten.”
The idea has come up of raising animals on Ambrosia Acres to go along with its more than two dozen rotating crops, but seeing as Peterson and his wife have been vegetarians for 25 years, it didn't seem quite right. So their current size— about .75 acres are in use at any given point —suits him just fine. “We have a deep-seated belief here that going big or going home isn't the answer” he says.
“There have been tons of times where I've been like, 'Screw it. I'm over.' But farmers tend to be optimistic.”