The Florida Keys & Key West

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Harry Appel and Jen DeMaria Share Their Green Lifestyle with Guests

In a classic children's book written by Dr. Seuss, a character repeatedly asserted that he didn't like green eggs and ham. Odds are, however, that he would have loved the "green" breakfast and jam at Deer Run Bed & Breakfast.

Innkeepers Harry Appel and Jen DeMaria bring a green, earth-friendly mindset to their intimate, fully vegan property on a private Atlantic Ocean beach in the pristine Lower Florida Keys.

Both former New Jersey residents, Jen and Harry went from cold and crowded to quiet and quaint when they visited the Florida Keys.

"I came down to the Keys on a trip right out of high school in 1974, and I fell in love with it," Harry said. "I visited quite often throughout the '70s, '80s and well into the '90s until I met Jen and brought her down."

On Jen's first trip to the Keys in the early 1990s, Harry took her to a secluded inn known as Deer Run, located close to two protected wildlife preserves in the Lower Keys. She loved it so much that they began frequenting the place three or four times a year.

Deer Run became something of a home away from home for the couple, and they became very friendly with Sue Abbott, the owner. Though he was a guest at the inn, Harry often helped out by making repairs on the property.

At that time, Jen and Harry traveled quite frequently and always sought out bed and breakfasts and small inns. They considered owning an inn and even took an inn-keeping class at a New Jersey community college. But it was their close relationship with Abbott that finally secured the inn of their dreams.

"One day I was sitting around with Sue enjoying a glass of wine and I told her 'if you ever think about selling this place, I want to be the first one you call,' " Harry said.

One day she did.

Within a few hours, Harry was on a plane to the Florida Keys to negotiate the purchase of Deer Run. He and Jen assumed ownership in 2005.

Jen, a 15-year vegan and 25-year vegetarian, told Harry she would move to the Keys and try running an inn only if the inn was vegan and operated in an eco-friendly way. Harry agreed, and together they developed Deer Run into the Lower Florida Keys' first certified member of the state's Green Lodging Program. The program was created by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to recognize and reward environmentally conscious lodging facilities.

For Jen and Harry, veganism and an eco-conscious lifestyle go hand in hand. While most of their guests are not vegans, and many are not even vegetarians, part of their vision for the inn is to show guests a different way of life.

At breakfast, guests at the small Caribbean-style inn can savor vegetarian feasts prepared by Jen and the staff. Home-baked breads and fruits are predominantly organic and sourced locally, and the kitchen serves only organic fair trade coffee and tea.

"Education is key here, and for me it really comes through the food," Jen said. "People come here and tell me time and time again 'I had no idea you could eat like this,' and I admit I grew up conventional, so I had no idea either."

Jen was professionally trained by a vegan chef who taught her the basic skills, from purchasing produce to knife handling to preparing dishes. She worked with him to construct a culinary program for the inn.

It's not just human guests that seem to enjoy Deer Run. The Lower Keys are home to a population of tiny, protected deer called Key deer — creatures often spotted wandering the property's tree-shaded beach or exploring its sheltered grounds.

Passionate about environmental protection, Jen and Harry work each day toward achieving more green certifications and acknowledgements.

"We're living by example here," Jen said. "We're what's next in travel, and we want more green choices."

Both former New Jersey residents, Jen and Harry went from cold and crowded to quiet and quaint when they visited the Florida Keys.

Both former New Jersey residents, Jen and Harry went from cold and crowded to quiet and quaint when they visited the Florida Keys.

At breakfast, guests at the small Caribbean-style inn can savor vegetarian feasts of home-baked breads and fruits, organic and sourced locally, and the kitchen serves only organic fair trade coffee and tea.

At breakfast, guests at the small Caribbean-style inn can savor vegetarian feasts of home-baked breads and fruits, organic and sourced locally, and the kitchen serves only organic fair trade coffee and tea.

The secluded inn has comfortable amenities for guests, and is located close to two protected wildlife preserves in the Lower Keys.

The secluded inn has comfortable amenities for guests, and is located close to two protected wildlife preserves in the Lower Keys.

It's not just human guests that seem to enjoy Deer Run. The Lower Keys are home to a population of tiny, protected deer called Key deer.

It's not just human guests that seem to enjoy Deer Run. The Lower Keys are home to a population of tiny, protected deer called Key deer.

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