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- Jupiter, Florida, United States
The Dirt Academy
Florida Coast Magazine – Winter Issue 2020 – Do you ever want to just get away sometimes and unplug from everything? Wouldn’t it be nice to go somewhere and learn how to live off of the land? How about truly understanding the importance of what you are putting into your body? If so, then look no further than The Dirt Academy.
Comfortably nestled in Jupiter Farms, The Dirt Academy is spread across 10 acres of open land. Five acres are designated for the farmhouse, barn, organic gardens, citrus grove, and chicken pasture, while the other five are used for a cow pasture, a pond, and native cypress hammock. Nina Shirley, owner and lead gardener, along with her husband, Brendon, acquired the property in December 2018. After months of hard work with the entire family and renovations to the grounds, the couple were able to move into their home in May 2019. Since then, they have built a mobile chicken coop, a communal area for events, and a vision for much more to come. The farm has an authentic, welcoming feel to it that can only be experienced by visiting in person.
Born and raised in Jupiter, Nina was a member of the Jupiter High School Environmental Program for four years and was even the president of the Bird Watching Club. Nina explains, “I have always loved nature. The Environmental Program taught us the basics of Florida ecology, native wildlife, and organic farming.” Upon graduating from Jupiter High, Nina attended Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee where she fell in love with the local farmer’s markets and organic farms.
It is evident that there has been an ongoing shift towards organic gardening and a farm-to-table lifestyle in recent years. We are becoming more aware of what we eat and how it directly affects our quality of life. The Dirt Academy believes in growing vegetables, herbs, and native fruits without adding chemicals. Not only is Nina not afraid to get her hands dirty, she embraces it. “I’m often the only woman in Home Depot early in the morning wearing my work boots ready to go.” Nina’s business revolves around building custom, raised-bed vegetable garden spaces in her clients’ backyards. She sources sustainable materials for the lumber, compost soil, and seeds. On installation day, her crew shows up to skillfully construct and plant the garden of her client’s dreams. Nina makes sure every detail is just right for the garden to thrive. In addition to visiting clients’ homes to help manage their gardens, Nina will eventually invite clients to come out to The Dirt Academy for workshops, training, and education.
“We are creating a community space where people can come to rest, be inspired, and learn to work with their hands. I want people to come here to experience everything that farm life has to offer. Like holding a chicken and harvesting carrots straight out of the ground.” All are welcome to the Academy, from beginners to experienced gardeners. There’s something for everyone. As soon as you step foot on the property, you will begin to feel one with the land. There is surely a sense of tranquility and love in the air.