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FOG celebrates 30 years of supporting organic and sustainable agriculture!

30 year logo_transparentFOG has carried out its mission for 30 years by providing communities throughout the state with programs and resources that promote and support organic and sustainable agriculture and local and just food systems.

From beginning as a grassroots organization with the office located in someone’s kitchen or an unused corner of a barn to an established organization with programs that educate producers, consumers, institutions and governments about the benefits of organic and sustainable agriculture , Florida Organic Growers has continually made an impact in communities around Florida.

Our EBT program promotes healthy eating by allowing the local farmers market  to accept food stamps. Our Fresh Access Bucks program increases the purchasing power of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants by providing a one-to-one match for Florida grown fruits and vegetables.

Our farmer workshops educate and equip farmers with the tools and resources they need as well as the opportunity to share best practices. These farm-based, peer teaching events act as an opportunity to share best practices  and further develop the network of like-minded farmers in Florida.

Food justice advocacy is vital to who we are and for the last 30 years. FOG’s programs in increasing access to healthy, fresh food for low income families, educating youth on the importance of eating produce and advocating for policies that improve conditions for organic and family farms are all important contributions to food justice advocacy. In addition, we are proud to be a co-founder and to continue to support the work of the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP) whose mission is to work towards empowerment, justice and fairness for all who labor from farm to retail.

EBT pictureIn 2001, FOG received its USDA accreditation to certify farms as organic under its certification program, Quality Certification Services (QCS). QCS is a USDA and ANSI ISO/IEC 17065 accredited certification body that offers a wide array of certification options for farming, livestock, aquaculture, compound animal feed, packing, handling, processing, and wild harvest operations. We are excited to offer certification options to farms and producers to set them apart.

Our involvement on a national scale has propelled the fight for the organic food and farming movement.

FOG is one of the leading organizations in the nation ensuring the voices of small farmers are heard as new federal food safety regulations are being developed. Our work with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), The Organic Trade Association (OTA) and the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG), to name a few, has given strength and momentum to organic and sustainable farmers moving forward.

We invite you to support us as we are excited to see our work in action this year and making an impact in years to come!

Gratitude and Thanks from Executive Director Marty Mesh

As I think back on this year and look toward 2017, I am filled with gratitude for the past and optimism for the future as, together, we have accomplished so much in growing the organic food and farming movement in Florida and beyond. There are so many challenges and so much work to be done going forward that it will clearly be a busy year!

This past year, we worked hard every day to increase access to organic, local food; support organic farmers; and provide information and resources to growers and consumers across the state. From expanding Fresh Access Bucks to more than 30 markets around the state to analyzing public policy and advocating for improvements in food safety, the Farm Bill and local food systems to hosting farmer workshops, we have worked towards making Florida’s organic food and farming movement a real political and economic force.

With your year-end, tax-deductible donation, we can maintain our momentum in 2017.

Next year marks our 30th year of fighting for organic farmers and strengthening local food systems. We have exciting plans for 2017 and want YOU to join us!

Connecting farmers with those who need us most

snap-fabIn 2017, Fresh Access Bucks will work with more than 45 direct-to-consumer outlets to benefit more than 18,000 SNAP recipients throughout Florida, massively increasing farmer revenue! The program will do this by training more than 350 farmer producers to accept SNAP/EBT at farmers markets and direct-to-consumer outlets around the state.

Growing the next generation of organic farmers

We are excited to continue our mission of educating organic farmers and equipping them with the tools needed for both short-term and long-term success. In addition to hosting multiple on-farm workshops in 2017, we are excited to again plan a statewide Organic Farmer Training workshop. Stay tuned for more details…we want you there!

Further, we are looking forward to continuing innovative ways to educate and train farmers about organic farming and local food systems.

Seeking change through collaboration

FOG will continue to drive public policy and advocacy on behalf of organic farmers and consumers who want to support such common sense priorities as better access to healthier food for all and for protecting our fragile natural resources. Our presence in Washington, D.C. for Hill days as well as active involvement with leading advocacy organizations has propelled organic and sustainable agriculture forward and helped broaden and deepen the understanding of its importance.

We have been fortunate to form supportive partnerships with like-minded businesses and organizations over the years and welcome more. The broader our networks become, the farther our impact can reach.

Your generosity is an act of hope

We are so thankful to those who support FOG – your contributions allow us to continue to invest in organic farmers, farmworkers and the education and research needed to help organic farmers be successful.

We need your support now more than ever – join us and let’s make a difference in our state and beyond.

Thank you in advance for your vital contribution.

Marty Mesh
Executive Director

Fresh Access Bucks accepting applications for the FABulous Network

Attention Florida farmers and farmers markets!

Interested in expanding your customer base and sales?

Fresh Access Bucks (FAB) is currently seeking applications to add more farmers and markets to the FABulous network. FAB is designed to encourage Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) recipients to redeem their benefits at farmers markets and CSAs to purchase fresh, healthy foods directly from Florida farmers.

At participating outlets, FOG matches what a SNAP cardholder spends with FREE Fresh Access Bucks – up to $20, every market day. Customers can use them right away or later on to buy Florida grown fruits and vegetables. Priority will be given to farmers and markets that already have EBT, that are located in and around low income areas and along transportation routes.

Please email for more information and visit to download an application.

FOG expands technical support to farmers and markets wishing to accept SNAP

Our work has impacted farmers, consumers and the community. We want to thank our Friends of FOG members and donors for their support as they have been vital to our success.

We encourage you to join with us as we continue this invaluable work. 

In October, we were awarded a Farmers Market SNAP Support Grant (FMSSG) to increase the capacity of our Fresh Access Bucks farmers markets to accept Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, formerly known as food stamps.KYV Farm

Fresh Access Bucks is a statewide incentive program designed to encourage SNAP recipients to redeem their benefits at farmers markets to purchase fresh, healthy foods directly from Florida
farmers. At participating markets, FOG matches what a SNAP cardholder spends with FREE Fresh Access Bucks – up to $20, every market day. Customers can use them right away or later on to buy Florida grown fruits and vegetables. For example, a SNAP shopper who spends $10 of their SNAP benefits at a participating market receives an additional $10 to purchase fresh, local produce.

The grant funding will increase the capacity of 20 Fresh Access Bucks partners managing the participation of SNAP at 29 farmers markets.

It does so by providing each partner with funding to hire part-time staff to manage SNAP activities for the markets. By providing the partners with funding for part-time staff over two years, we anticipate greater SNAP redemption rates at these 29 markets through increased outreach and visibility of the program.

This is huge for our efforts in Florida!

In addition to supporting the establishment, management and promotion of SNAP/Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) services at farmers markets, FMSS grant funds will also expand our technical support to farmers and farmers markets wishing to accept SNAP.

Won’t you join with us as we change Florida’s food landscape?

What moves you to foster change?

As 2015 comes to a close, we want to reflect on our amazing accomplishments this year through our Moving Monday campaign that spotlights how we are changing the food landscape throughout Florida.

Our work has impacted farmers, consumers and the community so we want to thank our Friends of FOG members and donors for their support as they have been vital to our success.

We encourage you to join with us as we continue this invaluable work.

 This past April was an amazing month for FOG as we received a Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grant, which supports projects to increase the purchase of fruits and vegetables among low-income consumers participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by providing incentives at the point of purchase.

Our proposal, “Fresh Access Bucks: Increasing Food Access And Florida Farmer Sales At Markets Statewide” will serve 50 markets over a 3-year period located in at least 21 counties throughout Florida!

Fresh Access Bucks (FAB) increases the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables by enabling farmers markets to accept EBT and allows SNAP users to purchase double-their-food dollars for
fresh, Florida-grown produce at farmers markets. Englewood FM manager Lee and SNAP Manager Amy

Eight months into our project, we have already partnered with 28 markets in low-income communities and work with various community organizations, private businesses, and state and local government agencies to implement this program.

Ultimately, this project will benefit more than 18,000 SNAP recipients throughout Florida and will increase farmer revenue by $2.1 million.

Since the program’s inception in 2013, more than $200,000 was generated in revenue for Florida grown produce, more than 150 Florida farmers participated and expanded to more than 3,000 new market shoppers.

In order to continue to serve communities throughout Florida with various workshops and programs associated with this grant, we need your support!

Join with us as we continue this program and create a sustainable, local, just, organic food and farm system that is environmentally and ethically sound.

 Let’s change the Florida food landscape together!

Thank you for your commitment

Letter from Florida Organic Growers Executive Director Marty Mesh

As 2014 comes to a close, I want to reflect on this year’s accomplishments while looking forward to our exciting new plans for 2015.

First, we want to thank our members for their support as they have been vital to the success of our programs and services throughout the state.

If you aren’t already, we would love to have you join us as a member.

A few highlights from 2014 include:

  • Our Fresh Access Bucks program is active at 20 farmers markets across the state enabling SNAP participants to purchase double their food dollars for Florida grown fruits and vegetables. Learn more about the participating farmers markets!
  • Since its inception, Porters Community Farm in Gainesville harvested 2,018 pounds of fresh produce for charity and logged more than 2,500 volunteer hours.
  • Our GIFT Gardens program built raised bed vegetable gardens at 21 sites for low-income families and the institutions that support them in the last six months.
  • Our EBT program continues to increase access to healthy foods for by accepting food stamps at two local farmers markets in Alachua County.  SNAP transaction
  • We hosted four of farmer workshops around the state that were attended by more than 40 people. The goals of the workshops were to increase knowledge of sustainable growing practices and to train beginning farmers.
  • We have worked to ensure the voices of small farmers were heard as new federal food safety regulations were developed with the passing of the 2014 Farm Bill and the reauthorization of the Food Safety Modernization Act.
  • We partnered with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to facilitate the Organic Certification Cost Share program.
  • We worked with national and state agencies and organizations such as the Department of Health’s Healthiest Weight Initiative, Florida’s Chronic Disease Prevention Coalition, the Department of Agriculture’s Food, Nutrition and Wellness Division, the Farmers Market Coalition, Wholesome Wave and the University of Florida IFAS Extension offices to further organic farming and increase access to local food within the state.
  • We teamed up with Georgia Organics to host the 17th Annual Georgia Organics Conference Green Acres: Saving the Planet One Bite at a Time, one of the largest sustainable agriculture expos in the South in February on Jekyll Island, Georgia. Nearly 1,000 attended the event.


  • In partnership with Discover You Can: Learn, Make, ShareTM, we held six food preservation demonstrations at two farmers markets in Alachua County in June – the Union Street Farmers Market and the Alachua County Farmers Market.
  • We partnered with three other organizations to host the First Annual Florida Local Food Summit at the East End Market in Orlando in October. More than 150 of our state’s farmers, foodpreneurs, consumers and policy makers attended the event.

A few exciting plans for 2015:

  • FOG, along with other peer organizations, will host the Florida Local Food Summit. Date, time and location to be determined. Stay tuned!
  • Porters Community Farm is excited to launch a weekly after school program in coordination with the Porters Community Center. Porters will be an outdoor, living laboratory for students to learn about science through gardening and urban farming.1375049_468220446624739_143371675_n
  • Thanks to support from the City of Gainesville’s Community Development Block Grant, Porters will also launch a youth crew program and hire three neighborhood youth to work at the farm as paid interns in the spring.
  • We will be hosting on-farm workshops throughout the state that will cover sustainable crop production methods such as soil fertility, disease and weed management, irrigation, cover cropping, transitioning from conventional to organic practices, marketing, agricultural policy issues, and organic certification.
  • We will continue the Downtown Farmers Garden workshops and community work days. Spring workshops will be officially posted by February 2015 on our website, through the Organic Beet and on the Downtown Farmers Garden Facebook page.
  • Our Fresh Access Bucks program will expand to at least 30 farmers markets in 2015 improving food access for Florida’s underserved communities and providing added revenue to our state’s farmers.

We will continue to strengthen our relationships with state agencies and allied nonprofits to work collaboratively to provide access to healthy, local food for all.

We need you to join us in this good food movement.

Join today or give a gift membership!

Happy Holidays to you and yours.

For our future,

Marty Mesh
Executive Director

Farmer Friday: Alachua County Farmers Market EBT Program

We are excited to highlight the Alachua County Farmers Market EBT Program for today’s Farmer Friday!

Each Friday in November and December, we are excited to bring you stories of what Florida Organic Growers (FOG) has accomplished in the organic and farming industry and how its impacted farmers, consumers and the community while spotlighting farmers in Florida who have benefitted from our work.

We encourage you to join us as a member to allow us to continue this invaluable work.

Alachua County Farmers Market EBT Program

Since 2011, Florida Organic Growers has operated the Alachua County Farmers Market EBT program, which enables and encourages SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) recipients to shop at two of our local farmers markets – the Alachua County Farmers Market and the Union Street Farmers Market.

Our EBT program has made fresh, healthy, local produce available to Alachua County residents in need and for many who have not had access otherwise.

Between 2011 and today, the program has:

  • Completed 5,885 federal nutrition benefit transactions
  • $132,963 in revenue generated by Fresh Access Bucks and federal benefits on Florida-grown fruits and vegetables
  • 2 farmers markets participating with SNAP
  • More than 70 participating farmers

John Bitter
John Bitter and Amy Van Scoik, founders and owners of Frog Song Organics, a 28-acre certified organic production farm located in Hawthorne, have benefited greatly from the EBT program.

“The EBT program is a huge benefit to our business and to other local growers,” said Amy.

“We believe that healthy food should be accessible to anyone who wants to eat it. FOG’s EBT program has truly worked to help build a successful farmers market and to support local growers by widening the base of potential shoppers. The EBT program purchases represent a significant part of our business in Alachua County, with over $12,706 in tokens (of all types) accepted in 2014.”

To find out more about our EBT program, please check out this great video.

Part of FOG’s mission is to advocate for the expansion of local food access and increase business for family scale farmers.

Please join us as we continue our fight to provide healthy food access for all and for this next generation of family scale farmers and become a FOG member today!

Invest in a healthy and sustainable future for Florida

As 2013 winds down, we want to reflect on what we accomplished this past year thanks to the support of our members.

Highlights include:

  • Our GIFT Gardens program has built raised bed vegetable gardens at 21 sites for low-income families and the institutions that support them in the last six months.   SwallowTail Farm workshop_rev
  • Since January, Porters Community Farm in Gainesville has donated more than 700 pounds of fresh produce to the local homeless shelter and various soup kitchens for those in need.
  • Our EBT Program continues to increase access by accepting food stamps for healthy options at two local farmers markets in Alachua County.
  • Our Fresh Access Bucks program is currently active at over eight farmers markets throughout Florida and will be expanding to at least 14 by the end of the year, allowing SNAP users across the state to double their food dollars for Florida grown fruits and vegetables.

A few exciting plans for 2014:

  • We will be hosting four four on-farm educational workshops throughout the state that will cover topics such as soil fertility, crop production and management, sustainable food systems, transitioning from conventional to organic practices, marketing, agricultural policy issues, and organic certification. We are working on details for these workshops, so stay tuned!
  • Expanding and developing our website, including an expanded and interactive map, Florida FarmFinder and many other resources.
  • Our Fresh Access Bucks program will be expanding to at least 20 farmers markets by the end of 2014, allowing SNAP users across the state to double their food dollars for Florida grown fruits and vegetables.
  • FOG will be participating in educational and outreach events throughout the state and region, including partnering with Georgia Organics on their annual conference and GrowFest! in Miami-Dade. FOG will also partner with East End Market to host the Florida Local Food Summit.
  • We will be working to encourage the passage of a Farm Bill and one that promotes our values of a sustainable, just and local farm and food system.

Our members are our lifeblood—without them, we wouldn’t be able to achieve all that we have.

Join FOG today and be part of the good food movement for a healthier and more sustainable future!

You can choose your own level of giving—one that reflects how much you value and have the ability to support the mission and work of FOG.

To join today, learn more or to give a gift membership, CLICK HERE.

Together we can create a sustainable, local, just, organic food and farm system that’s good for people and the planet.

Florida Organic Growers EBT Program — Past, Present and Future

By: Derek Helmick, Community Food Project Coordinator  EBT LOGO2

For three years, Florida Organic Growers has provided a booth at various farmers markets throughout Alachua County that provide SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefit transfers.

In that time, the booth’s operational costs have been covered by various municipal grants; however, as municipal budgets tighten and the program matures, it is vital for the funding to continue in order for the booth to remain a part of the area farmers’ markets. Let’s delve into the broader history of the programs involved, the Alachua County project specifically, and provide possible plans for the booth’s future.

The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) is an aid program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Originally the Food Stamp program, it was started in the late 1930s as a response to widespread unemployment and massive food surpluses that existed during the height of the depression. Having ended in 1943, the program was reauthorized in 1959 with bipartisan support. During the incoming Kennedy Administration it was made permanent so as to make available “… to all needy families a greater variety and quantity of food out of our agricultural abundance.” [exec.ord. 10914]

In the 53 years since, the program has had regular revisions in step with political, ideological, and technological changes. One such technological change was a move in the late 90s to phase out the old green-and-brown stamps system in favor of an EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) card to be used like a credit or debit card. This was done to make the system more consistent, more accountable, and less susceptible to fraud. With the move to an electronic payment system however, the retail food market became fragmented; those consumers receiving SNAP benefits were effectively shut out from any part of the market unable to handle electronic transactions. Two such parts of the excluded market are small and medium farmers who sell direct to the consumer.

ebttokens_machineDirectly selling to consumers remains a vital part of many farmers’ income. While most farm output is irrevocably tied up in larger grocery vendor systems, farmers often maintain an amount of excess or specialty crops that would otherwise go unsold. Many farmers elect to take part in regional farmers’ markets as a way to sell those products – often at significant a discount relative to grocery stores. Often, these markets are located close to populations that are underserved by most of the retail food market.

In Alachua County, the farmers’ markets FOG maintains an EBT booth at border regions the USDA has labeled as being without basic access to large grocery stores or similar outlets.

There is a significant investment necessary to starting up and maintaining the ability to accept electronic transactions. In addition, there are even more investments needed to accept SNAP benefits that put it out of reach for most farmers and small vendors. To accept SNAP and electronic transactions on behalf of multiple vendors allows for economies of scale that otherwise couldn’t support the necessary ongoing overhead.

Covering these costs is necessary in order to provide the wealth of health benefits made possible through EBT at farmers markets.

If you would like to support the EBT program at various farmers’ markets, please contact FOG at 352.377.6345. If you have any questions, comments, or would like more information about our work in this area, you are encouraged to contact us at or call 352.377.6345.


Funds for EBT machines in Florida expire September 30!

EBT LOGO2 Hoe Down 005

Attention Florida farmers markets and farmer – just over a month left to apply for SNAP authorization and a state-funded EBT machine!

Florida was allocated $78,749 to purchase electronic benefit transfer (EBT) machines for farmers markets. This money MUST be used before September 30th, 2013. So far, only $19,908 have been spent! We have $58,841 (74.72%) remaining!

In May of 2012, $4 million was appropriated for the purchase or rental of a wireless device and related SNAP fees for markets across the US. The purpose of the funds is to increase the availability of point-of-sale (POS) equipment in farmers markets not currently participating in SNAP. These are two-year funds, and must be used by September 30, 2013. The USDA funds can be used to cover the purchase price or rental fees of a wireless POS device, a one-time account setup/application fee, and monthly wireless fees (necessary to operate SNAP on the device). EBT transaction fees, cost of tokens, signage, and promotional materials are not eligible to be covered by the funds. Devices purchased or rented with federal funds may also accept commercial debit/credit cards.

Previously, the funds were only available to farmers markets. In May of 2013, USDA announced that the funds would also be made available to individual farmers if the farmer participates in a market that does not currently offer SNAP access. Check out this information sheet to see if you or your market is eligible, and learn more about the process

Additionally, your market might be eligible to participate in Florida Organic Growers’ (FOG)’s new program, Fresh Access Bucks, a double value coupon program that allows SNAP users to double their food dollars for Florida grown fruits and vegetables at farmers markets statewide.

If you have further questions about this funding, EBT at farmers markets or the Fresh Access Bucks program, please feel free to contact Carmen Franz at FOG at