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Organic Spinach Production System Workshop

Interested in growing organic spinach? Want to learn more?

Don’t miss the Organic Spinach Production System Workshop on Thursday, February 9!

Held at the University of Florida Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra from 1pm to 4pm, this FREE workshop will cover all things spinach, including:

  • Organic spinach production challenges
  • Nutrient management using compost and organic fertilizer
  • Growing spinach under high tunnels
  • Fall and spring production comparisons
  • Microbial loads and postharvest decay
  • Postharvest handling and storage

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn! Be sure to reserve your spot today, space is limited! Register here!

This joint Kansas State University-University of Florida research & extension project is supported by the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) Food Security Competitive Grants Program (Award # 2014-68004-21824).

Join us in planning the formation of a North Central Florida Farmer’s Cooperative!

Florida Organic Growers 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!

SSAWG+logo+3-color-smallThree meetings were held in the past weeks in Live Oak, Jacksonville, and Gainesville. We appreciate the input and insights of all those who were able to attend. For any of you who missed it, we have put together a summary of the discussions and action items for our coming meetings. RAFI

As you probably know, cooperatives can take many forms, and there is a rich history of farmer’s cooperatives; farmers working together to solve production, marketing, material or sales needs. The basic concept of these planning meetings is to create a common goal, mission, and structure with a core group of growers that are able and willing to come together and create an organization. In order to do this, these first series of meetings focused on the collective needs of area farmers. The top functions desired for a cooperative were:

  • Marketing and Sales, including increasing the communication between farmer and buyer, farmer and resource providers, and farmer to farmer.
  • Collective Purchasing
  • Equipment Sharing and/or Labor Sharing
  • Education, Training, and Capacity Building

In addition to basic services the cooperative may provide, there was consensus given that cooperatives should function within their locality.

For example, Gainesville would organize a cooperative, as would Jacksonville, with the potential for networking and communication between the two groups.  As well, the meetings did focus on beginning the cooperative with fresh produce, before moving on to distributing animal products or value added products.

In the next series of meetings we will focus on creating a mission statement and selecting folks that will be willing to continue this project as a planning committee. We will be sharing feedback from buyer surveys distributed and other grant initiatives that may help continue with the funding of this project. Any additional input is always welcome, and we hope to keep the planning meetings and process as transparent as possible.

Please join us at one of our upcoming meetings if you would like to participate!

Gainesville:

Alachua County Public Library Headquarters

401 East University Avenue

Monday, April 20th 6:30 – 7:45 p.m.


Live Oak:

Small Business Development Center of North Central Florida

212 N Ohio Ave. 32064

Tuesday, April 21st 6 – 7:15 p.m.


Jacksonville:

Duval County Extension Office

1010 N McDuff Ave, 32254

Tuesday, April 28th 6 -7:15 p.m.

We hope to see you there! If you have any questions please contact Mary Hathaway at Mary@foginfo.org or at 904-419-3609 for more information.

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

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

“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.

Free Organic Farming Workshop at Swallowtail Farm

Florida Organic Growers (FOG) is partnering with Swallowtail Farm, and the University of Florida to offer a free Organic Farming Workshop in Alachua County, Florida. The workshop will take place on Monday, June 3rd from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. The workshop will provide practical information and advice about sustainable/organic farming such as soil and weed management, marketing, building community farm support, social networking, and organic certification. The workshop is designed for current and prospective farmers, as well as service providers who are interested in learning and sharing about organic and sustainable farming. Swallowtail farmers Noah Shitama, Emily Eckhardt and Mariana Riehm will lead farm tours, discuss production and marketing strategies. Florida Organic Growers’ Executive Director Marty Mesh and FOG outreach staff will lead a discussion on organic certification and the use of social media. The workshop will also feature Susan Webb Associate Professor and Vegetable Entomology Extension Specialist with the University of Florida, discussing pest ID and management. Admission is free and lunch will be provided to attendees. Click here to register.

Swallowtail is a 30 acre farm with 7 acres in vegetable production located north of the city of Alachua, in North Florida. The farm is crafted as a model of sustainability and fine land stewardship, with a focus on appropriate scale, conservation of resources, and nature-produced fertility. The farmers do not use any synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides to produce food. The farm follows the principles of biodynamic farming and integrates crop and livestock production to promote efficient use of nutrients; in order to provide fresh, nutritious food to the local community. The farm has taken leadership to promote cooperation in the local food system. The farm markets its fresh vegetables, herbs, cut flowers, and some livestock products through a strong Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Program, local farmers markets, and selected restaurants.

The Farmer workshop is organized by Florida Organic Growers (FOG), a non-profit organization established in 1987 in Gainesville; and supported by a Specialty Crop Block Grant administer by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. FOG’s Education and Outreach Program promotes organic agriculture and healthy and just food systems, informing producers, consumers, media, institutions and governments about the benefits of organic and sustainable agriculture.

Space is limited and registration is required. Click here to register. For more information visit www.foginfo.org

Come ready to learn and share!

Free Urban Organic Workshop at Gateway Organic Farm

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Florida Organic Growers (FOG) is partnering with Gateway Organic Farm to offer a Free Urban Organic Farming Workshop in Clearwater, Florida. The event will take place on April 29th from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm. Farmers Pamela and Hank Sindlinger, with the assistance of Dr. Robert Kluson from the Sarasota County Extension, will lead this workshop at Gateway Organic Farm. Additionally, Florida Organic Growers’ Executive Director Marty Mesh and FOG outreach staff will provide information and insights throughout the workshop. Participants will also have the chance to hear from long time organic inspector, consultant, and founder of Sweetwater Community Farm, Rick Martinez. The workshop will provide practical information and advice about urban organic farming such as soil and weed management, equipment for small farms, building hoophouses, marketing, organic certification, and the unique challenges an urban farm faces. The workshop is designed for current and prospective farmers, as well as service providers who are interested in learning and sharing about organic farming in urban settings. Please see registration information below.

Gateway Organic Farm, a three acre farm, is located in Pinellas County, the most densely populated county in the state. The farm was born back in 2003 when the Sindlingers were looking for a place to retire. They settled for this long strip of land where a nursery and landscape business operated. They have transformed this place into one of the most successful urban organic farms in Florida. They produce organic vegetables, herbs and fruits by maximizing the use of every inch of space. Currently they market their high quality produce through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that grew out only by the word of mouth, and by selling to a number of restaurants in the area.

The Sindlingers commitment to the environment has led them to practice permaculture principles in their farming to create a diverse, resilient agroecosystem. The farm became certified organic in 2010. Additionally, the farmers are heavily involved in many community development projects. One of such projects allow low income families to produce food at the farm and receive cooking training from the culinary program at the Pinellas Technical Education Center. For this and much more community work, farmers Pamela and Hank Sindlinger received the Florida Innovative Farmer Award from the University of Florida IFAS Small Farm and Alternative Enterprise Conference in Kissimmee in July 2012

The Farmer workshop is organized by Florida Organic Growers (FOG), a non-profit organization established in 1987 in Gainesville; and supported by a Specialty Crop Block Grant administer by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. FOG’s Education and Outreach Program promotes organic agriculture and healthy and just food systems, informing producers, consumers, media, institutions and governments about the benefits of organic and sustainable agriculture.

Space is limited and registration is required. Mail your completed registration form to P.O. Box 12311, Gainesville, FL 32604, fax to 352.377.8363, call 352.377.6355 or e-mail jose@foginfo.org.

You can also complete your registration online <<here>>

Come ready to learn and share!

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Lake Alfred Town Hall Meeting

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November 06, 2012; 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM

at the Lake Alfred Citrus Research and Education Center

Florida Organic Growers (FOG) and the Organic Trade Association (OTA) cordially invite you to a Producer Town Hall Meeting to take place on November 06, 2012 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm at the University of Florida’s Lake Alfred Citrus Research and Education Center. FOG is looking for farmer input regarding a number of critical issues that can affect or benefit sustainable and organic agriculture in Florida. FOG’s Executive Director Marty Mesh and OTA’s Board of Director President Matt McLean will be coordinating this meeting.

Topics to be discussed:

1. Organic Research and Promotion Program. Marty and Matt will introduce to you a promising initiative for the organic sector, the Organic Research and Promotion Order. This initiative has the potential to provide support for organic research and marketing in the long term. After the presentation of the program, Marty and Matt will ask for your valuable input, so as to understand whether or not you are supportive of this initiative. As organic farmers and/or processors your input is crucial.

2. Marty Mesh will provide an update on the Farm Bill and the potential consequences for conservation and agriculture.

3. Marty Mesh will provide an update and lead discussion on Food Safety issues, including a new FOG project that will offer food safety certification cost-share for small farmers in Florida.

4. A listening session, where you will freely express your challenges and needs in terms of producing and marketing your crops and or products. This information will be critical so that FOG can prioritize and identify the projects that are most relevant and beneficial to you.

5. Other announcements and information, including how to use Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) programs to help your farm, and a new FOG’s farmer’s market initiative that will equip about 20 markets across Florida with EBT Technology and incentives for specialty
crops.

Your input is key to the success of this event, come ready to talk and share!

Refreshments will be provided.
Address: 700 Experiment Station Rd. Lake Alfred, FL 33850. Telephone (863) 956-1151

RSVP REQUESTED. For more information or to RSVP, please call 352.377.6355 or e-mail jose@foginfo.org.

Upcoming Organic Farming Workshop in Vero Beach

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Florida Organic Growers (FOG) is organizing a Free Organic Farming Workshop at Osceola Organic Farm in Vero Beach Florida. The event will take place on  November 5th 2012 , from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm. The workshop will provide practical information and advice about organic vegetable production, sustainable soil and pest management, marketing, and organic certification. The workshop is designed for current and prospective farmers, as well as service providers who are interested in learning and sharing about organic farming.

Long time organic inspector and experienced organic vegetable grower Kevin O’Dare has been running Osceola Organic farm since 1993, and obtained organic certification since 1996.  Kevin successfully markets his produce through a farm stand, area restaurants and farmer markets. He’s an expert grower interested in promoting a new generation of farmers.

USDA Researcher Dan Chellemi & organic farmer Kevin O'Dare inspect a raised vegetable bed that is being solarized in Vero Beach. Photo by Randall Smith, USDA/ARS.

Kevin will lead participants through an interactive farm tour of his diversified 7 acre vegetable, herb and edible flower farm. Kevin will touch on all aspects of organic production, including fertility, soil and pest management. One of the highlights of the tour will be the discussion on soil management. The host farmer and USDA researcher Dr. Dan Chellemi will share with growers the exciting results of more than 10 years of study related to soil solarization. This innovative technique has promoted healthy and successful crops at Osceola Organic Farm.  Dr. Ariena Van Bruggen, from the Emerging Pathogens Institute at UF and also an expert researcher on organic agriculture, will also share with growers her insights into creating healthy soil ecosystems.

Another interesting element of the tour will be the participation of Dr. Bob Adair and Matt Adair, from the Florida Research Center for Agriculture Sustainability, who will share with growers the outgoing results of a research study in which beneficial insects have been introduced at the farm to manage leaf miners, Asian psyllids and other insect pests in the citrus orchard.

Chef Christopher Bireley puts the finishing touches on a dish at the Osceola Bistro.

Additionally Chef John Farnsworth of Johns Island Club and Chef Chris Bireley of Osceola Bistro will speak about the marketing opportunities that small organic local farms have in the area. Details will include the volume, quality and timing requirements in order to market to restaurants in the area, and other marketing strategies. These chefs are important potential buyers for family farms interested in the organic market in the region.  Finally the FOG staff, along with the host farmer will briefly discuss the requirements, benefits and challenges of the organic certification process.

The Farmer workshop is organized by Florida Organic Growers (FOG), a non-profit organization established in 1987 in Gainesville; and supported by a Specialty Crop Block Grant administer by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. FOG’s Education and Outreach Program promotes organic agriculture and healthy and just food systems, informing producers, consumers, media, institutions and governments about the benefits of organic and sustainable agriculture.

 

Click here to view the workshop agenda>>

Click here to download the workshop registration form>>

 

Space is limited and registration is required. Mail your completed registration form to P.O. Box 12311, Gainesville, FL 32604, fax to 352.377.8363, call 352.377.6355 or e-mail jose@foginfo.org. For more information visit www.foginfo.org/workshops .

Free Organic Farming Workshop in South Florida

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Florida Organic Growers (FOG) is organizing a Free Organic Farming Workshop at LNB Groves and Bee Heaven Farm in Homestead, Florida. The event will take place on Thursday October 11th  2012 , from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm in two locations.

Homestead Organic Workshop Registration Form

 


View Larger Map

Workshop starts at: LNB Groves, 25250 SW 194th Avenue Homestead, FL  33031

Workshop continues at: Bee Heaven Farm, 19000 SW 264th St, Homestead, FL 33031

 

The workshop will provide practical information and advice about:

  • organic tropical fruit and vegetable production
  • sustainable soil and weed management
  • organic produce marketing
  • organic certification process and maintenance

Download: Homestead Organic Farm Workshop Agenda 10-11-2012

The workshop is designed for current and prospective farmers, as well as service providers who are interested in learning and sharing about organic farming.

Marc Ellenby from LNB Groves and Margie Pikarsky from Bee Heaven Farm, along with FOG, will lead the workshop and interactive farm tours.

About the Speakers:

Marc Ellenby of LNB Groves in Homestead shows off some of his tropical fruit trees. Image: growingproduce.com

Marc Ellenby manages about 160 acres of tropical fruit groves in South Florida. He’s currently transitioning 15 acres to organic management. Species in production include sapodilla, mamey sapote, black sapote, jackfruit, and dragon fruit. Marc will have the assistance of Tropical Fruit Crop Specialist Jonathan Crane from IFAS’ Tropical Research and Education Center.
Margie Pikarsky has managed Bee Heaven Farm, a seven acre certified organic vegetable, herb, and fruit farm, since 1995. Bee Heaven Farm produces a wide variety of crops, including prized avocados and tomatoes. Additionally, Pikarsky heads up a multifarm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program that has grown tremendously.

Margie Pikarsky with bunches of parsnips from Bee Heaven Farm. Image: redlandrambles.com

The Farmer workshop is organized by Florida Organic Growers (FOG), and supported by a Specialty Crop Block Grant administered by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. FOG’s Education and Outreach Program promotes organic agriculture and healthy and just food systems, informing producers, consumers, media, institutions and governments about the benefits of organic and sustainable agriculture.

Space is limited and registration is required.

Mail your Homestead Organic Workshop Registration Form form to P.O. Box 12311, Gainesville, FL 32604, fax to 352.377.8363, call 352.377.6355 or e-mail jose@foginfo.org.

 

While you’re in the area, don’t forget…

There will also be an important Farmer Town Hall Meeting on October 12 in Homestead. Then, stick around for some fun at GrowFest! over the weekend! 

 

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