To get to Swank Farm, drive west—way west. Elaborate street names will turn to single alphabetical letters, and asphalt roads will turn to dirt. Drive slow enough to not miss the farm’s subtle entrance—an access point with a simple sign planted in the ground to welcome guests from near and far. While driving through, watch a golden sun dip over the 20-acre parcel, and you’ll begin to understand why the trek is necessary.
On a Saturday evening in January, 100-plus guests descended on Swank Farm to attend the Master Chef Milwaukee dinner, a culinary event welcoming three impressive chefs from the Wisconsin city to whip up an open-air, multi-course meal and wine pairing.
The venue on the farm is as whimsical as the plates that are served. Long, rustic wooden tables topped with simple flower arrangements sit inside a pole barn without walls. Crystal glass bottles and lanterns are suspended from the ceiling; tealight candles create an intimate mood; and a band is perched at the front, playing a bit of country folk music to set the scene.
But past the twinkle lights and Persian-style lamb chops topped delicately with baby turnips (plucked from this very ground) is a business. And at the center of it all is husband-and-wife duo Darrin and Jodi Swank, the owners of Swank Farm. It’s safe to say they are the ultimate dinner party hosts.
For nearly two decades they’ve called Loxahatchee Groves home. (They’re upgrading from a 450-square-foot house they built in 2001 to what Jodi calls her “dream home,” which will feature a commercial kitchen to accommodate cooking classes.) When the Swanks first bought the farm, they grew and sold three items.
“We were blown away at how much we were able to produce in such a small shade-enclosed area, so we had all this basil, all this lettuce, all this arugula, and now we’re like, ‘What are we doing with it?’” Jodi recalls.
They began reaching out to distributors and bringing samples to local chefs to see if they were interested.
“This was a product these chefs have never seen and they were aching for something new—and we had it,” Jodi says.
Soon, word spread about the little farm in Loxahatchee delivering on the farm-to-table movement. And today, Darrin and Jodi grow more than 360 varieties to share with local chefs in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties—and to the general public through local green markets.
The farm churns out arugula, kale, chard and micro greens, to edible flowers and cucumbers grown hydroponically.
“We have some of the best lettuce you’ll ever try,” Jodi says. “It’s clean. No sand. No dirt. No grit.”
They also grow tomatoes, strawberries, onions, beets and more via half-gallon grow bags. But the best-kept secret is the Swank Table monthly events. The concept? Bringing the community together to bond over food with help from culinary masterminds.
More importantly, it’s a chance to educate the masses on where their food is coming from.
“It’s so important to know your farmer and support them,” Jodi says.
Guests can enjoy brunches, themed dinners (during which Darrin gives guests a farm tour before a family-style meal) and Master Chef events.
On this particular evening is a multi-course plated dinner consisting of grouper with butter-braised carrots, green beans, beurre blanc and micro sorrel; grilled rabbit loin with a rosemary olive oil crumpet, chevre and seasonal jam; and a delicious strawberry upside down cake with orange curd and basil whipped cream.
What first began as a “lunch on the farm” in 2012 has turned into a social season filled with 18 calendar events.
The Swanks’ success goes farther than planting and parties; they’re supporting the community in addition to feeding hungry stomachs. Each event benefits a local organization close to their hearts, including Palm Beach Opera, Pathfinders of Palm Beach and Martin Counties, and Meals on Wheels of Palm Beach.
“I work with several charities that have been with me since the beginning, like the Cultural Council [of Palm Beach County],” Jodi says. “They have an amazing arts program for children. You feel good when you give back.”
Attend an upcoming event:
March 10 “Vegetable Love,” an all-vegetable feast
March 31 “3030 Ocean Reunion Dinner”
April 7 Sixth annual “Vetu De Blanc”
April 28 The Three Little “Gloucestershire” Pigs Master Chef
March 16 Master Chef Louisville
March 23 Master Chef Boston
April 13 Master Chef Delray Beach
May 4 Master Chef Miami