KEY WEST’S LOST BEACH & ISLAND FARM OFFER SWEET ESCAPE
ONBees and campfires hum at the end of a dirt road on the edge of Stock Island.
Known only to lucky kayakers and some locals, Island Farm in Lost Beach is finally opening its shores and sharing the sweetness with Fire + Honey, a weekend campfire series reserved for reservations only.
“It transports you,” said owner Eric Dickstein. “It’s funny because we meet people all the time. And they just say, “We never knew it existed.”
Dickstein, a native of New Jersey, bought the island property 15 years ago with the intent of raising bees and ultimately creating a community-based farming initiative. There are currently a few hundred beehives on the Island Farm, all of which produce mangrove honey, and spring is high time for production. “The bees are kept busy when the plants start to bloom. We have black, white and red mangroves. Above all, mangrove honey is one of the best. Because the mangroves bloom at different times, we have an extended season, ”said Dickstein. The locally produced Island Farm Honey is offered to guests around the campfire as a welcome addition to a traditional s’more.
Eric Dickstein from Island Farm.
Island Farm is committed to both sweetness and sustainability. Nothing is lost as an off-grid property. “There are no pieces of sea debris leaving the island. We even use the seaweed. It dries, composts and helps with soil nitrogen. It is a natural fertilizer. We use everything. The ashes from the bonfires help with the alkalinity in the soil and reduce insects around the beehives. Everything is a complete system, ”said Dickstein.
The cyclical support model is reflected in the Fire + Honey campfire events. The weekend celebration introduces the community to Island Farm and subsidizes the high cost of farming. “The agricultural side is very expensive. These events make people come out, taste the honey and get to know us while getting out in nature. It also supports our beekeeping and planned growth. “
A campfire revelers.
Restoring Lost Beach’s natural beauty was a labor of love for Dickstein and his crew. “We have removed about 60 dumpsters with rubbish and plastic so far.” The resulting postcard-perfect appearance inspired the name Lost Beach. “We call it the lost beach because it was lost and we have found it now.”
The finding could not have come at a better time. “There is a big movement in the state towards agrotourism. This is the perfect place for that and with COVID restrictions, the community needs more outdoor things like this so that we’re not just a one horse town. ”
Dickstein developed the Fire + Honey concept in collaboration with Jenn Stefanacci, owner and queen bee of Downtown Liberty 22 & Co. “Jenn is an incredible high-flyer. She took her time and shared the vision. She was the most passionate person I have met. She just gets it. “
Campfire tool kit.
Getting it was easy for Stefanacci, realizing the property’s unique potential. “I moved to Key West 11 years ago and need to go now to relax. I can do that out here. It’s different from anywhere in the keys. Lost Beach brings me back to the reason I moved here in the first place. “
The appreciation for the Keys community is reflected in the pricing of events and offers a discounted rate to the locals. “Locals keep this island going after hurricanes in September. You have to remember who the heart and soul of this island is,” said Stefanacci.
Campfires are just the beginning for Lost Beach. Right now it’s BYOB, but Dickstein will soon be working with Keys Meads to create an outdoor mead garden and tasting area. The cooperation benefits both companies, as Dickstein supplies the honey used for mead production. In the near future there will be a farm shop with the aptly named The Sweet Spot and a weekend market from next month. Dickstein encourages artists and vendors interested in being part of the market to apply through the Island Farm website.
Also in progress for Island Farm in Lost Beach: farm-to-table dinners, beekeeping workshops and a summer farm camp to get kids excited about farming. “We want parents to have the opportunity to take their children to a place where they can be safe, have fun outside, pull the plug and get back to their roots.”
While there are many expansion ideas out there, simplicity is Dickstein’s ultimate goal. “What we’re trying to do is simple – chairs, fire, honey. I think people appreciate that. We let nature do the work. “
Lost Beach welcomes visitors to its shores.
For Dickstein, community is key, and on-site volunteers are not only welcome, they are absolutely necessary. “It’s a big piece of property and we want to do a lot. It will take a lot of hands. The idea is to make the farm and the beach accessible to more people. Hopefully they will ask, ‘How can we help? How can we get involved? ‘”
Visitors and volunteers are offered the gift of old companionship. “Something special happens when people sit by the fire. You connect. It’s elementary. “
To learn more and connect with these elements, book a Fire & Honey experience on Island Farm’s website at islandfarmhoney.com.