A few years ago, Tripp and Carmen Eldridge almost set out to bike the world for a year. But before they could leave, Carmen says they “came across the position of a lifetime.”
“A place called Arden was looking for a full-time farm manager,” she says. “Tripp and I decided to both apply.”
Soon after, the Eldridges were called for an interview at Arden, a sustainable living community in western Palm Beach County, where residents volunteer weekly and participate in farming activities as well as enjoy the benefits of farm-to-table meals. Nicknamed an “agrihood,” it’s the only master-planned community of its kind in South Florida and among the first in the state. Residents of Arden enjoy an event barn and five-acre farm brimming with tropical fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers.
Carmen is no stranger to farming. Her grandparents were farmers in Spain, she taught organic farming at a high school in Panama through the Peace Corps and launched a one-acre teaching farm program at the University of North Florida which grows food for the school’s cafeteria.
“After North Florida, I went into the non-profit world as program director for Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers Inc.,” Carmen says. “I was focused on equitable food access for low-income families. That’s also around the same time when Tripp and I met, fell in love and ultimately, moved to Tennessee to farm together in east Nashville.”
Originally from Georgia, Tripp discovered farming in his later days of college. He was a sustainable agriculture volunteer in Peace Corps Tanzania and studied farms and food systems in graduate school in places from Mexico to Spain. More recently, he managed similar community-supported agricultural farms throughout Georgia and Tennessee and served as the farm director for the 400-acre Caney Fork Farms.
“Farming started as a hobby and a passion, but ultimately grew into my life,” Tripp says. “Once my time in Tennessee was over, Carmen and I decided we wanted to escape winter, but we knew ultimately we wanted to find a way to continue farming.”
“This is home now,” Tripp says. “We’ve planted lots of small trees around the farm, and we hope to watch them bear fruit. We have a lot of sweat equity invested in seeing the farm fully come to life as Carmen and I have envisioned it. It’s truly exciting.”