Jason “Farmer Jay” McCobb is feeding leftovers to his pig, Pearl, and wondering when the chickens are going to start delivering eggs. He is standing in a grove of royal palms on a weedy five-acre tract that’s down a farm road few in the adjacent country clubs probably know about. But this scrubby patch of land off Lyons Road and south of Atlantic Avenue is at the heart of his dream to change the world—one garden at a time.
“It’s called ‘natural process’ farming,” he explains, pointing out lettuces among the undergrowth and noting that, during the growing season, there were 15 varieties of tomatoes here, along with peppers, micro greens, fruit trees and herbs.
The makeshift farm is only part of what McCobb does. Although he says he is “a farmer first and foremost,” supplying high-end restaurants like Max’s Harvest in Delray with greens, he also teaches adults and children about sustainable gardening through his Whole Food series, lifelong learning programs, summer camps and community groups. He also builds gardens for individuals, schools and restaurants—plus, he helped to launch the Moonlit Farmer’s Market at Boca’s Ellenville Garden Center on Thursday nights.
“I think it’s very important to teach the next generation,” says McCobb, 37. “We are now putting gardens in people’s backyards; this is what we all have to do. Seventy years ago, 70 percent of the population grew something. Today, it is less than 1 percent.”
McCobb is a man on a mission, trying to persuade people to grow at least some of their own food in ways that are healthy and sustainable, which he defines as “using Earth’s resources at a rate that they can be replenished.” But he wasn’t always a man of the earth; in another life, he worked at sports bars, including Gatsby’s in Boca. But it was a gig at a Palm Beach resort that really turned a then-hobby into a true vocation.
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