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Fresh Access Bucks kicks off season with team updates and new markets

FAB-RGB-TransparentFlorida’s season is in full swing, and the Fresh Access Bucks (FAB) team is busier than ever! We have some updates on the team implementing the FAB incentives program across Florida as we prepare for an exciting 2017.

The FAB team is sad to say farewell to Program Manager Carmen Franz. Carmen has been instrumental in growing the Fresh Access Bucks program from infancy, and was responsible for program management, development, and training new market partners. We wish Carmen the best in her future endeavors!

Katie Delaney and Mary Hathaway are currently leading the FAB program. They will manage development and handle training for current and new markets. Kayvon Bahramian will continue to provide SNAP tech support to farmers markets throughout Florida.

Fresh Access Bucks is a statewide program incentivizing SNAP recipients to redeem their benefits at participating farmers markets to purchase fresh, healthy foods directly from Florida farmers. The program matches what a SNAP cardholder spends, up to $20 every market day. Customers can use their Fresh Access Bucks tokens right away or later on to buy Florida grown fruits and vegetables.

Visit the FAB website for the markets currently participating in the program. New markets will be added this fall!

katie_kayvon_mary-imageFresh Access Bucks Team (L to R): Katie Delaney, Kayvon Bahramian and May Hathaway  

Blueberry Plants for Sale!

On Sunday April 3the University of Florida group, Florida Alternative Breaks, spent their afternoon at the Green Market Nursery tending to Blueberry plants that are currently being sold as a fundraiser for Florida Organic Growers. The group tediously weeded each of the plants individually, added nutrient rich compost and aligned the pots into orderly rows.

The plants are looking great and are ready for purchase thanks to Florida Alternative Breaks generous time and helping hands!

Each plant is $15. When a purchase of 3 to 9 plants is made there is a 5% discount applied. A purchase of 10 or more plants is discounted 10%. Bulk deal pricing is also optional.

If you are interested in supporting Florida Organic Growers by purchasing some beautiful blueberry plants, please contact officeassistant@foginfo.org.

Rocking it out in Gainesville with the Rockstar Farmer Tour

We were thrilled to partner with East End Market in Orlando to bring the Rockstar Farmer Tour featuring Canadian Farmer Curtis Stone, owner of Green City Acres in Kelowna, BC, to town for an inspirational and motivational two-day Curtis Stone bio picture event January 28 and 29!

On January 28, Curtis gave a free lecture at the Civic Media Center to about 75 people. He spoke about his urban farming operation, and describe how, despite having no previous experience and only a shoestring budget, he turned a profit of more than $20,000 his first year and double that profit every year since. He showed quite a few photos of his operation, how he views the city in terms of delivering produce and his method of turning beds within the growing season.

On January 29, Curtis delved a little deeper into the strategic production techniques he uses which focus on high value crops with short growth cycles as well as service specialized and niche market streams such as restaurants, and cooperative CSA’s. The workshop focsued on serious, high production urban farming and focused on the business of urban farming – specifically how to produce high value crops and how to sell them. He shared the tools and technology to better manage business and to save money. More than 25 people attended the workshop.

Green City Acres is a commercial urban farm established in 2010 and based out of Kelowna, BC. Farming under a half acre of land spread over multiple plots in the downtown core, they sell vegetables to some of the city’s best restaurants, wineries, and a weekly farmers market. Curtis also works as an educator, consultant, and writer on the subject urban farming throughout North America.

Learn more about his operation by visiting the farm’s website or follow the farm on Facebook

Porters Community Farm Update

Porters sign

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since we first came up with the idea of starting Porters Community Farm and turned to you to help make it a reality.

It has been a whirlwind and the time has flown by with tons of compost spread, what feels like tons of weeds pulled, and a ton of food produced for those who need it most.

From an abandoned lot, the thriving community space has grown providing fresh produce to the St. Francis House – a transitional home for the homeless – housing a community garden and hosting numerous tours, groups and events. The first fall, we started with one 50ft by 50ft growing area along with six raised beds. Our first field crop was a row of kale planted on October 25th, 2012.

From that day we have continued to expand, adding on an additional 50ft by 50ft section the next spring, along with many more raised beds. Nearly every corner of the three lots we occupy is filled with some sort of crop or tree.


Donations

Along with the funds we raised through our IndieGoGo campaign, we received an outpouring of community support with other donations. Lost Valley Farm donated an old mower and we received a generous donation of peach, apricot, apple, blueberry, fig, and pomegranate trees from Chestnut Hill Tree Farm. There have also been many other smaller donations of tools and supplies.

Porters Community Farm wouldn’t be possible without your support.

We encourage you to make a donation today so we can continue serving the community.


Grants

In order to supplement and fund our work, we applied for grants and received one from the Florida Wildflower Foundation to plant wildflowers around the perimeter of the farm. We also received funding from the Newman’s Own Foundation and, this year, received a grant from the City of Gainesville’s Community Development Block Grant to offer paid internships to teenagers in the neighborhood.


Harvests community harvest

From day one, our main goal with Porters has been to provide fresh vegetables to the St. Francis House and other charities. We reached our goal of growing and donating 2,000 pounds of fresh produce to donate to the St. Francis House this past spring.

We have also provided fresh, organically grown vegetables to the Catholic Worker House and Gainesville Ministries. Additionally, we offer produce to the neighborhood and general public through our U-Pick, U-Pay-What-U-Can Farm Stand.

While the project has been successful overall, there certainly have been plenty of challenges. We have had our fair share of broken sprinkler heads and cracked pipes. We have also become very familiar with a who’s who of challenging weed species.

We had hoped to keep the project self-sustaining through produce sales and tried various avenues including restaurant sales, a Salad Community Supported Agriculture program and the U-Pick, U-Pay-What-U-Can Farm Stand.  However, the resources needed to maintain this project still exceed the revenue generated by produce sales.

Porters in Numbers
(since inception)

Harvested 2,018 pounds for charity

Logged 2,512 volunteer hours

Education

InternsharvestingA big part of our mission at Porters Community Farm is to create and foster learning experiences. We have hosted rain barrel workshops, seed starting, community BBQs and countless group tours.

This year we are very excited to announce two youth education programs. The first is a once a week afterschool program in coordination with the Porters Community Center. The program consists of eight lessons and aims to teach science through gardening and farming.

Thanks to support from the City of Gainesville’s Community Development Block Grant, we will launch a youth crew program and hire three neighborhood youth between the ages of 14-17 to work at the farm as paid interns this spring.

The program’s goal is to promote healthy living by involving the youth in growing, harvesting, donating, selling, and eating of fruits and vegetables as well as use farming to teach business skills and valuable life skills like planning, teamwork, hard work and communication.

The funding only covers the cost of the paying the youth crew members. We still need funding to cover staff operating the program.


Partners

 It’s no easy task operating a community farm and we couldn’t do it without the help of our partners.

Porters Community Farm hosts one of Gainesville Compost’s community compost centers that houses vegetables scraps from restaurants around downtown. They also process all the green waste from the farm, along with compost brought in from the neighborhood. Gainesville is home to many fantastic organic farms and they have been big supporters of Porters by donating surplus seedlings and other supplies in this past two years.

Volunteers are our greatest partners, providing much needed helping hands to keep crops alive and weeds down. We’ve had 19 interns pass through our internship program and hosted countless service groups.


What’s Next?

After two years of operation, we strive to continue providing a valued community space, but need ongoing support to make it happen.  If you would like to learn more, come for a tour or volunteer, just let us know.

arialview

Thank you for your past support and we hope you consider making a donation using the link below for us to continue this work and write Porters Community Farm in the comments section. 

 Make a donation to Porters Community Farm today!

 

Tips from Travis: Growing your own spring salad mix at home

By: Travis Mitchell, Community Food Project Coordinator and Coordinator of Porters Community Farm

Fall is a great time to vegetable garden in Florida, and my personal favorite season. The bugs are starting to disperse, weed pressure is lowering and temperatures are starting to fall.

Baby salad greens are one of my favorite things to grow in my fall/winter garden. They are easy to grow, will produce a lot in a small space, and if you are a big salad eater really save you some money at the grocery store.

1455985_479117562201694_518531813_nThe process is simple; first prepare your bed or garden section making sure to work in fertilizers or compost. Next, prepare a seed mix of your favorite lettuces or greens. I use everything I have laying around, a bag of mesculin mix, some red leaf, some oakleaf, some red russian kale, and some arugula.

Then broadcast your seed evenly and relatively thick across your prepared garden bed. I just used my hands but there are a lot of farm tools for broadcasting seed available if you are going planting a lot. To insure you get a real even application you can add some sand to your seed mix to give it a little volume. After broadcasting the seeds, gently work them into the soil by giving them a light brush with your hand or gently scrape the top of soil with rake.

About a month or so later depending on how warm or cold it is (lettuce doesn’t grow much when the temperatures are below 50 degrees) you will have a bed full of yummy little baby greens. You can harvest them as soon as you want but you don’t want them to get taller than about six inches. Harvest with a knife or scissors and cut the leaves about an inch above the ground. The plants will grow back and can be harvested again two to four times until they become bitter.

If you are a visual learner, watch this video explaining the technique.

October Events

Join us in October as we partner with organizations around the state to host workshops and events!

Date Event Description
3-4 Florida Local Food Summit The FIRST Annual Florida Local Food Summit will leave participants inspired, connected and well equipped to face challenges associated with improving our state’s local food system. We aim to provide attendees the technical assistance and networking opportunities to grow all areas of local food from field to fork and beyond, and mobilize their communities to create positive change.http://www.floridafoodsummit.com/

 

4 Venice Farmers Market Fresh Access Bucks Grand Opening Join the Venice Farmers Market, Venice’s City Council and County Commissioner Christine Robinson for the Fresh Access Bucks grand opening!http://thevenicefarmersmarket.com/

 

7 Eat Local, Give Local The Beaches Green Market & Atlantic Beach Mid-Week Market are hosting Eat Local, Give Local, a fundraising event for Fresh Access Bucks. With the generous support of Jaxon Social, the evening includes farm-to-table cuisine, craft cocktails and live music by Whetherman. Admission is $75. Tickets may be purchased online at www.beacheslocalfoodnetwork.org
16 Englewood Farmers Market Fresh Access Bucks Kick-Off Event Join the Englewood Farmers Market for their Fresh Access Bucks kickoff event and celebrate access to healthy food for all!http://englewoodfarmersmarket.org/site/

 

18-19 Grow Fest! Grow Fest! is about connecting the dots between the farm or garden and the dinner table. It’s about providing the knowledge and materials to grow, forage, buy, prepare, and eat good, local, seasonal food. At the Redland Fruit and Spice Park, visitors can attend demos, workshops and presentations, listen to live music and purchase gardening supplies. FOG will be present tabling with information about our programs, with organic juice and water for sale.http://beeheavenfarm.com/events/

 

22 Zen Pumpkin Soup Cooking Demo Learn how to prepare Zen Pumpkin Soup (Locally sourced Seminole pumpkin) cooking demonstration Wednesday, October 22nd @ 5:30PM at the Downtown Union Street Farmers Market. The demo will be presented by Stefanie Samara Hamblen and sponsored by Florida Organic Growers. 

Accompanying the cooking demonstration, there will be a nutrition education table providing information on the nutritional quality of seasonal produce, healthy eating habits and other easy-to-prepare cooking recipes. The table will be run by UF Nutrition and Dietetics student volunteers. There will be opportunities to win food preserving goodies and coupons.

Food Day Cooking Demo 2014

 

25-26 New Leaf Market Farm Tour Thirty-four local farms are opening their doors and inviting you to experience farm life. Each farm is offering something special. Families can enjoy tours that include barnyard animals, farm-fresh goods and refreshments. You can attend a workshop on beekeeping, take a hayride or talk to farmers who are committed to organic production. Visit working cattle and goat ranches, a dairy or a winery. And of course, purchase amazingly fresh goods directly from the farm.http://www.newleafmarket.coop/seminars-events/farm-tour

 

25 FAB Family Fun Day at the Venice Farmers Market Join the Venice Farmers Market to celebrate their Fresh Access Bucks program. The event includes FAB Magic w/ Glenn Gary, along with Suzanne Andrews, Mother’s Cupboard, conducting a cooking demo with items from the market, and Elaine Bronson, Aqua Zainey One Stroke Painting, doing face painting.  There will also be a ‘Planting Garden’ workshop with Dr. Robert Kluson of UF/IFAS Sarasota County Extension.
http://thevenicefarmersmarket.com/ 
27 Seven Days of Local Delights FOG is participating again this year in Tallahassee’s Eat Local Week, known as the Seven Days of Local Delights. FOG will be hosting a discussion on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), exploring their social, health and environmental impacts. It will be at the Miccosukee Root Cellar from 6:30-7:30 at the 1311 Miccosukee Rd, Tallahassee, FL 32308.http://redhillsfarmalliance.com/events/seven-days-of-local-delights-2014/

 

29 Sarasota Eat Local Week FOG will be participating in Sarasota’s Eat Local Week, tabling at the event and providing educational materials related to sustainable food systems. http://www.transitionsrq.org/food/week/ 
30 Englewood Farmers Market Englewood Farmers Market will be hosting a family fun day. FOG will have a table promoting Fresh Access Bucks and helping with market tours.http://englewoodfarmersmarket.org/site/

Summer Gardening in Florida — It’s hot, hot, hot!

By: Taylor Neilly, FOG Intern

It’s beginning to really feel like summertime in Florida and the looming question for all plant growers out there is to garden, or not to garden? While many opt not to take full advantage of Florida’s year round growing season, others embrace the opportunity and keep the veggies going.

Of course, summer gardening here in Florida presents a bit of a conundrum. On the one hand it’s hot, muggy and buggy and even a short vacation away from home can turn any garden into an unruly, weed-filled, bug buffet. On the other hand, summer is the season where many of us find the majority of our free time and a vegetable garden lends itself as the perfect project to get you outside for your daily dose of vitamin D and fresh air, while providing a bounty of produce along the way.

So if you care to brave the heat, here are few vegetables (and fruits) that are capable of withstanding, and even thriving in the summer sun:

1. Sweet Potato. These sweet and starchy tubers can be planted well into July here in Florida and they couldn’t be easier to grow. Loosen up the soil, being sure to give them ample room, plant the slips, and watch them spread. You can also make sweet potato slips.

Englewood Farmers Market_rev

2. Peppers. Bell, hot, and sweet pepper varieties all grow well during the summer. Choose your favorites and give them a try. You can also plant a few of your hot peppers in a pot and enjoy their heat for years to come.

3. Roselle. This species of Hibiscus is native to West Africa and a truly beautiful addition to any summer garden. A tasty, tangy drink, similar to red zinger tea, can be made from the calyxes.

4. Lima or Butter Beans. There are both bush and pole varieties to choose from. High in protein, low in fat and prolific growers, these legumes make an excellent addition to any summer garden,

5. Cowpeas. Another resilient and prolific crop, these legumes can withstand extreme heat, harsh drought, and grow in the sandiest of Florida’s soil. Besides being high in protein, Cowpeas also have the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, which brings nutrients to the soil. You may even consider allowing them to take over your garden completely to amend your soil for fall planting.

6. Eggplant. Summer after summer I find myself harvesting more eggplant then I know what to do with. While it might be too late to plant in parts of Central and South Florida, North Florida gardeners have until August. Ichiban, Black Beauty and Dusky are all varieties worth considering.

NNN - Community Gardens - Grove Street Dreamers Garden - ribboncutting - PLSTeggplant

7. Small Cherry Tomatoes. Many gardeners try to grow larger tomatoes in the summer. But the plants simply end up producing plenty in bush but little in fruit. The truth is, larger tomato varieties need cooler nights to produce an abundance of fruit, which the Florida climate simply doesn’t facilitate. However, several types of cherry tomatoes can be grown throughout the summer and be plenty productive.

8. Okra. This pod producing plant is easy to grow and can be planted late into the summer. Cooking okra is almost as easy as it is to grow. Simply slice the pods and sauté them up in your favorite oil. Or cook them whole and it won’t get near as slimy. With such ease, no wonder okra is a staple of Southern cuisine!

9. Cassava. Plant some now and you’ll have delicious roots that will be ready to boil, mash, fry, or add into a stew by the time fall rolls around.  How cool it will be to show up to Thanksgiving dinner with an exotic dish like mashed Cassava! You’ll need to find someone with root cuttings, but even smaller slivers will root and grow.

10. Callaloo or Tree Spinach.  If you’re craving a leafy green for the summer, this  might be the experimental plant for you. Callaloo, an edible amaranth, is not often utilized or grown in the US, but its leaves are a popular ingredient in many Carribean dishes. The Callaloo leaves are nutrient-rich and similar to spinach.

These are only some of the veggies you can plant this summer. If you care to do some of your own research and find more, look for plants that are native to regions of Central America, northern South America and the Caribbean, and parts of Central Africa, and Southeast Asia. Also remember that Florida is a large state. Because of this, planting dates for certain plants can vary based on your latitudinal location. Check out the Florida gardening calendar from IFAS. Now get out there, enjoy the summer sun, and happy planting!

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.

“It’s Not Too Hot to Garden” Workshop

When it comes to the heat, this summer is one for the record books. However, when it comes to growing fruits and vegetables, it’s not too hot to garden.

Join Wendy Wilbur, University of Florida extension agent, Travis Mitchell with Florida Organic Growers (FOG) and Melissa Desa of Forage Farms on Thursday, July 11 from 6 to 8 p.m. to learn about all of the things you can grow in your garden throughout the summer.

The workshop is free and open to the public. It will be held at the Downtown Farmer’s Garden located west of the Alachua County administration building on 12 SE 1st Street. The workshop will have onsite tutorials on a variety of summer garden solutions including cover crops, solarization, alternative summer edibles, and shade cloth.

This workshop will be held in the garden and refreshments will be provided. Seating is limited. If you are uncomfortable standing please bring something to sit on or contact Travis Mitchell at Travis@foginfo.org.

For more information please contact Travis or call 352-363-1093.