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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

FOG partners with the USDA to make organic certification more attainable for farmers

As 2015 comes to a close, we reflect on our amazing accomplishments this year through Moving Mondays, a campaign that spotlights how we are making efforts to improve the food landscape in Florida.

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

Last month, we partnered with Little Bean Productions and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program to launch a video series called Organic Certification Made Simple: Bite by Bite as part of the USDA Sound and Sensible Initiative, a campaign that aims to make organic certification more accessible, affordable and attainable.

The multi-part series provides a step-by-step overview of organic production requirements and the process of organic certification—by farmers, for farmers.

Featuring both farm footage and animation, the videos aim to be easily digestible and succinct; each video covers a different topic so viewers can pick and choose to watch the videos that correspond directly with their interests or questions. Viewers can watch the whole series to get a holistic overview of the entire certification process.

Throughout the 26 videos, farmers discuss their firsthand experiences with obtaining organic certification and why they decided to pursue it.

We were one of 14 organizations awarded a project contract with a goal to advance the USDA National Organic Program’s (NOP) Sound and Sensible Initiative by identifying and removing barriers to certification and streamlining the certification process.

Our work has impacted farmers, consumers and the community. When you support FOG, you support family farmers throughout Florida and beyond.

Won’t you join with us in 2016 as we change Florida’s food landscape?

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!

Florida Organic Growers partners in launch of video series to help demystify organic certification

Florida Organic Growers (FOG) and Little Bean Productions have cooperated with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program to launch a video series called Organic Certification Made Simple: Bite by Bite as part of the USDA Sound and Sensible Initiative, a campaign that aims to make organic certification more accessible, affordable and attainable.

The multi-part series provides a step-by-step overview of organic production requirements and the process of organic certification—by farmers, for farmers. Featuring both farm footage and animation, the videos aim to be easily digestible and succinct; each video covers a different topic so viewers can pick and choose to watch the videos that correspond directly with their interests or questions. Viewers can watch the whole series to get a holistic overview of the entire certification process.

“Our series is meant to help direct-market growers who are using sustainable practices understand that getting certified organic may not be a huge stretch for them,” said FOG Executive Director Marty Mesh, “and many consumers and wholesalers are looking for certified organic products, so getting certified could open up markets for them and make their businesses more viable.”

Throughout the 26 videos, farmers discuss their firsthand experiences with obtaining organic certification and why they decided to pursue it. One segment follows a direct market farmer on his journey through the organic certification process to show viewers how the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic regulations translate to practices on the ground.

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“Many see organic certification as a daunting process, but Bite by Bite is full of visually engaging practical information while highlighting peer-to-peer communication with all the organic farmers we feature,” said Shelley Rogers of Little Bean Productions, director/producer of the series.

FOG was one of 14 organizations awarded a project contract with a goal to advance the USDA National Organic Program’s (NOP) Sound and Sensible Initiative by identifying and removing barriers to certification and streamlining the certification process.

To view the video series, please click here.

Interested in forming an agricultural cooperative?

Join the North Central Florida Farmers Cooperative!

FOG is working with the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) and Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI) to help support the formation of Agricultural Cooperatives in the North Central Florida.

Agricultural cooperatives have a long and successful history and today there are more than 3,000 agriculture cooperatives in the U.S. with a total net income of nearly $1.2 billion dollars.

Agricultural cooperatives are farmer-owned and farmer-controlled organizations from which benefits are derived and distributed equitably on the basis of use. A farm cooperative would allow North Central Florida farms to aggregate purchasing, marketing and sales to reduce costs and reach a broader local marketplace. This project is for any type and size of farm. We are continuing with the planning phase and want your input!


March 12
Live Oak Public Library
1848 Ohio Ave S , Live Oak
6 to 7:30 p.m.

March 23
Alachua County Public Library – Headquarters
401 East University Avenue
6:30 to 8 p.m.

March 25
Smith Auditorium
900 University Blvd. N, Jacksonville
5:15 to 6:30 p.m.

April 22
Smith Auditorium
900 University Blvd. N, Jacksonville
5:15 to 6:30 p.m.

April 20
Alachua County Public Library – Headquarters
401 East University Avenue
6:30 to 8 p.m.

If you have interest, please contact Mary Hathaway at Mary@foginfo.org or at 904-419-3609.

Chipotle offering seed money for food safety audits

 Seed Money: Third-Party Food Safety Audit Grant Presented by Chipotle is now accepting grant applications – DEADLINE FEBRUARY 28 

 

Chipotle Mexican Grill and Localecopia, Inc. would like to formally announce the opening of the “Seed Money: Third-Party Food Safety Audit Grant Presented by Chipotle.”   This assistance grant was created to help reimburse local growers for the expense in obtaining independent / third party food safety audits now required by most large buyers.  There will be five selected grant winners.   Each winner will receive $1,000 towards the reimbursement of their farm’s third party audit. In some cases the expense of the audit will not exceed the amount of the grant.  In those cases the grant award winners will still be issued a check for the full $1,000.     

 

Winners of this assistance grant will be announced at the April 2015 Localecopia Meet & Greet.

 

Contest Rules:

*** PLEASE NOTE THAT A COMPLETED AUDIT IS NOT REQUIRED FOR ENTRY! ***


1.  Applications for the 3rd Party Food Safety Audit Grant will consist of:  

a.  A letter from grower indicating their interest in the grant by answering the question, “Why should I be one of the Florida farmers to receive a $1000 grant to use toward the cost of my third-party food safety audit?” 

b.  A copy of the growers on-farm food safety plan. 

c.  The completed packet sent to:    Localecopia, Inc.   P.O. Box 844   Palm Beach, Florida 33480   OR  info@localecopia.org   

d.  Submissions will be evaluated by both Localecopia, Inc. and the Chipotle Produce Food Safety Analyst

 

2.  Third-party audit certification must come from an approved third-party auditing firm.  Approved third-party audit firms include: AIB, ASI, all GSFI benchmarked firms, NSF Agriculture, NSF Supplier Assurance Audit, PrimusLabs, SCS, Silliker, Steritech, NCSI, and USDA.

3.  Qualifying Florida farmers must grow produce crops.   Qualifying Florida farmers are not required to grow Chipotle-specific produce items.   However, as an additional incentive, Chipotle will buy produce from winning growers assuming that:   

a. The grower passes the audit

b. The grower passes a Chipotle on-site assessment 

c. They grow Chipotle produce items,    

d. The grower’s produce meets Chipotle’s quality standards

e. It is logistically possible to do so.

 

4.  Checks will be issued upon receipt of confirmation that the audit has been performed. Each grower will need to provide their form W-9  in order to receive the funds.

 

Timelines: 


1.  Submissions accepted from January 1, 2015 through February 28, 2015.

2.  Winners will be informed by March 31, 2015.

3.  All winners will be announced at Localecopia’s April 6, 2015 Meet & Greet event, and through a Chipotle press release.

 

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.

IMG_4876

  • 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: Food safety and Big Bear Farms

It’s our last Farmer Friday! Today we are chatting about food safety!

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.

The Food Safety Modernization Act and Big Bear Farms

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) is the first major overhaul of our nation’s food safety regulations since 1938 and it includes new requirements for produce farms and for facilities that process produce and many other types of food for people to eat.

FSMA was signed into law in January 2011. It gives the FDA broad new powers to prevent food safety problems, detect and respond to food safety issues, and improve the safety of imported foods. Specifically, FSMA requires FDA to establish new regulations for standards for produce production (the Produce Rule) and food safety measure for facilities that process food for human consumption (Preventative Controls Rule).

After receiving tens of thousands of comments last year, FDA announced that they would re-propose parts of two main rules. FDA just ended their comment period two weeks ago for the re-proposed rules.

FOG has been at the forefront in advocating for revising of the FSMA rules and our partnership with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) has allowed us to reach the masses about food safety and its costly burden on family farmers.

It was vital for farmers, consumers, and food advocates to comment as there is a real risk these rules will put farmers and food entrepreneurs out of business and make sustainable and organic agriculture, local food, and conservation efforts collateral damage.

Big Bear Farms, a Certified Organic blueberry and vegetable farm in Plant City, will be greatly affected by these new rules. blueberry_bushes1_250x166

“FDA took the strictest regulations and applied it to all farms. Many rules they are proposing do not apply to smaller farms,” said Ken Der, owner of Big Bear Farms.

“The cost to the smaller farms has to be minimal otherwise it will put us out of business.”

The farm is also certified for Produce GAPs Harmonized Food Safety Standard for Field Operations and Harvesting. Both certifications are with Quality Certification Services, a certification program under FOG.

If FMSA doesn’t work for ALL farmers, then it doesn’t work for safe food, and it doesn’t work for us.

Please join us as we continue to advocate for family farms and become a FOG member today!