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Good Eating and Green Living

Mike and Angela Lancaster pause very briefly between their many chores, all of which are labors of love for the glory of God.

Mike and Angela Lancaster had an idea for a new way to grow and share herbs, vegetables, and produce. Before they started, the prayed about it, and following God's leading, they have come up with services that are most unusual these days.

True, they are not the only ones growing strawberries, herbs, and vegetables hydroponically, but few growers are also using organic methods. The Lancasters started their hydroponic growing in late 2006.

"As we watched over 50 different varieties of vegetables sprout and start to grow, we were like proud parents of these special babies," they say on the website. "We saw God's awesome handiwork and then decided to incorporate organic practices to give our babies a natural upbringing, therefore producing very healthy children. We were very pleased with our little farm and knew that the Lord had truly blessed us."

They do offer non organic produce as well and buy fruits and vegetables from local growers, even from homeowners who have a surplus.

You may have seen their Country Store and the hydroponic units on the east side of Lithia Pinecrest Road just north of Fish Hawk Blvd. It is open from 10:30 am to 6 pm Tuesdays through Fridays, from 9 am to 1pm on Saturday. You can stop there and look around, meet the friendly people, and buy fresh vegetables, fruits, jams, jellies, honey, a wide assortment of breads, muffins, and other baked goods, pickles, salad dressing, and barbeque sauce. They also offer smoked or rotisserie chickens with no preservative or hormones, all natural, smoked spiral ham, farm fresh goat milk and goat cheese and organic eggs. Check out the offerings on their website: www.Lancasterfarm.net. Because I did not see all of what is offered on the web, it might be better to order first, but what I did see was well worth the stop.

The hydroponic growing units are filled with strawberries, herbs, and vegetables.

Behind the store is a nursery section with potted trees and shrubs. On the porch were flats of blooming annuals.

There is even a market day every Wednesday from 12 to 6 where vendors of other but related products set up their booths.

But the big innovation is that customers can join their Produce Club for $20.00 a year and then have basket DELIVERED weekly or biweekly for $28 right to the door of anyone living in their delivery area, which includes Brandon and surrounding areas. How can they do this? They have three young adults in the family who still enjoy driving.

Each basket is about half a bushel in size and a vegetable basket usually includes such basic items as lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, fresh herbs and peppers, plus two jumbo muffins and a loaf of French bread. Depending on the season, it may also include some collards, mustard, squash, zucchini, bok choy, kale or Swiss chard. Members are learning to enjoy new tastes, and the website offers a wealth of good recipes.

Fruit baskets may include, depending on the season, bananas, grapes, mangos, peaches, pineapple, apples, nectarines, plums, cherries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, oranges, lemons, lime, key limes, avocado, kiwi, pears, cantaloupe or watermelon. Fresh fruit is actually more abundant in Florida than are vegetables. The fruit is not all organically grown but comes, as much as possible, from local growers.

Members can get a fruit basket one time, a vegetable one another, or a combo that also contains fresh herbs and two muffins. Or they might sometimes want a dinner basket with one of those smoked or rotisserie chickens, Asian bread, an easy-to-prepare vegetable and salad makings. They also make up special baskets and deliver they to the recipient.

Stop by and see them, check their website or call them at 813-482-2008. A Membership and the first basket could be an ideal gift for some of the people on your list. Or get a membership for your own family and send some of the first baskets to friends in the area.

This Country Store on the east side of Lithia Pinecrest invites browsers to share the flavor. Inside the Country Store you'll find jams, jellies, honey, fruits and vegetables, also a warm welcome.