SITTING ATOP ONE of the highest points on the central Florida Ridge is a beacon for the farm-to-table movement, working to shine a light on local communities and schools and how the food grown in the area affects the culture.
The Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden at Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales hosts many different events from October to May, but each of those events has a common focus, according to Erica Smith, the director of marketing and public relations for the Gardens.
“Many of our events are really about sharing what is grown here on the Ridge,” she says. “We have farm-to-table dinners that feature locally grown foods and we host experiences that guide participants into the gardens to cut herbs and spices to create flavors in the kitchen.”
The Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden were built in 2016 as part of a $15 million expansion — the largest in the historic park’s 90-year existence. The Outdoor Kitchen is a 6,400-square-foot facility that boasts a pizza oven, grill, cooktop and range, a refrigerator and more. The Edible Garden was designed by landscape architect Thomas Woltz and features seasonal offerings as well as a fruit orchard, grape arbors, and raised beds for herbs and vegetables. Row crops produced each year in the garden include 1,600 tomatoes, 2,500 peppers, 3,000 onions and 15 varieties of herbs and other vegetables.
The kitchen was an outgrowth of a partnership that developed in 2015 betwe