When Ashley and Josh Dennie started having children, they wanted their kids to eat organic and decided to start raising their own fruits and vegetables to make sure that happened.
As time progressed and their family grew, friends and neighbors started purchasing the couple's organically grown produce. Soon business was booming for them in the Fort Lonesome area where they were living at the time. The farm grew as demand grew.
A friend of theirs in Tennessee soon saw the success of what they were doing and the importance of eating organic produce. That friend dedicated 133 acres of farmland in Williamsport, Tenn., to growing produce organically. Now, Josh Dennie travels there once a month and spends a week there harvesting produce and checking on the operations.
Josh transports that produce back to Florida and sells it not only at 5 Kids Organic in Land O' Lakes, but also at farmers' markets in Ybor City and Riverview.
The 25-acre farm in Fort Lonesome continues to be actively used for produce production, too.
So, why are the Dennies so dedicated to organically grown produce?
They say that many fruits and vegetables featured in supermarkets are grown with genetically altered seeds that change the nutritional value of the fruit or vegetable. Some are even placed in gas houses to bring out the color of the fruit quicker, such as in tomatoes, which are often harvested quickly before fully ripened. These gaseous chemicals remain in the skin of the fruits and vegetables and are then ingested by consumers, the Dennies say.
Side effects from synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers and synthetic growth hormones are more frequently seen in the news, spurring more and more families to buy organic vegetables, fruits and even meats, the couple says.
What started as a hobby out of desire has turned into a full-time business for Josh Dennie, who calls himself a “stay-at-home dad and farmer.”
Ashley Dennie works and also goes to school in addition to her duties as mom and wife.
Their five children, ranging in age from 3 to 7, are actively involved in growing and harvesting the fruits and vegetables they raise.
“Offer them a piece of candy or a chunk of watermelon, and they go straight for the watermelon,” says Ashley Dennie with a proud smile.
“The kids love planting and watching things grown and enjoy meeting people who come to buy our produce," adds Josh Dennie. "It’s fun for them. They really get into it."
While the Dennies currently specialize in fruits and vegetables, expansion plans are on the horizon. For example, they intend to start raising medicinal herbs.
“So many people are turning to natural ways to cure everyday illnesses now instead of putting chemicals in their body,” says Josh.
Ashley is also developing a website called 5 Kids Organic Watchdogs to inform consumers about places that falsely advertise organic produce and meats. That website is in the beginning development stages and will be up in the coming months.
While organic fruits and vegetables take longer to grow because they don’t use any synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers or chemical compost, the Dennies strive to keep their prices reasonable for customers.
“They don’t need to pay the high prices for organic that are at the supermarket,” says Josh.
5 Kids Organic offers a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. It features eggplant, green peppers, tomatoes, garlic, potatoes, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, zucchini and watermelon. Japanese orchids and organic seeds are also available for purchase.
The 22402 Catfish Lake Road stand is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. It is located on State Road 54 between Collier Parkway and the Village Lakes Shopping Center. The property is also accessible from Camp Indian Head Road. Just turn down this road and follow the bend to the Dennies' property on the right hand side.