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Early Bird Registration open for Organic Food and Farming Summit!

For the past 30 years, Florida Organic Growers has been hard at work fighting for farmers in the name of organic agriculture and just food systems. To celebrate this momentous milestone, FOG is holding the inaugural Organic Food & Farming Summit September 17-19 in Gainesville.

This inaugural Summit is an opportunity for beginning and seasoned organic farmers and producers to learn and share with others growing in tropical and sub-tropical conditions and seasons.

The Summit will provide venues to interact and engage with leaders and peers in organic agriculture. Workshop sessions, farm tours, day-long trainings and a special keynote speaker are just a few of some the ways knowledge can be gained at this one-of-a-kind event.

There are multiple ways to partner with us to ensure a successful Summit including sponsorship, participating in the two day tradeshow or submitting a proposal to be a speaker. Visit the website to learn more!

The Summit will inspire, educate, and inform the diverse work of farmers, professionals, advocates, consumers, and others involved in Florida’s sustainable farm and food systems movement.

Early bird registration is now open, register today!

For more information, please contact Summit Coordinator Andi Emrich at andi@foginfo.org or 352-377-6345.

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!

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).

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

Register NOW for Southern SAWG Annual Conference

We are excited to partner with Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SAWG) to promote their Annual Conference! ssawglogo3-color-small

For over 25 years the Southern SAWG Annual Conference has been providing the practical tools and solutions you need at our annual conference. It is the must-attend event for those serious about sustainable and organic farming and creating more vibrant community food systems!

The conference will be held January 25-28, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky.

The popular pre-conference events begin on Wednesday and include a great line-up of one-and-a-half day intensive short courses, Organic Agriculture Research Symposium (OARS), and then on Thursday, several exciting half-day field trips and mini courses. 

The general conference is held on Friday and Saturday. The general conference, with a wide variety of program offerings and 90 expert presenters, gives you the opportunity to learn vast amounts in a short two days! 

The general conference line-up includes 56 educational sessions, plus a state networking session for each of the 13 states in our region, and another 16 information exchange sessions where you get to exchange ideas and information with those who share your interests. 

Also included in the cost of the general conference registration are a trade show, research posters, and the Taste of Kentucky dinner.

Learn more about the conference and register here!

Conservation Stewardship Program accepting applications

A major farmer and rancher funding opportunity is now available!

USDA is currently accepting initial applications for Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) – a national program that rewards farmers for protecting and enhancing natural resources on their working lands. CSP funding includes expanded options for conservation activities and an increased minimum payment to help smaller-scale producers. Contracts may include cover crops and rotational grazing to ecologically-based pest management.

Interested farmers should visit their local NRCS office and fill out a short form by February 3, 2017 to take advantage of this opportunity.

Learn more here!

 

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  

Scholarships Available for 2017 Organic Agriculture Research Symposium

The Organic Farming Research Foundation is pleased to announce the availability of a limited number of scholarships to help with the cost of attending the 2017 Organic Agriculture Research Symposium (OARS), taking place on January 25-26, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky, immediately preceding the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference (SAWG).

Scholarships up to $350 will be awarded based on the need and merit of the applicant. The scholarship funds may be used for symposium registration ($90-$120), travel and one night of lodging.

Learn more here.

 

 

Organic Farming Research Foundation accepting abstracts for symposium

The Organic Farming Research Foundation is seeking submission of research abstracts for presentation at the 2017 Organic Agriculture Research Symposium (OARS), taking place on January 25-26, 2017 in Lexington, Kentucky, immediately preceding the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group Conference (SAWG).

The symposium will feature researchers from all disciplines related to organic farming and food systems, and other systems of sustainable agriculture that employ techniques compatible with organic standards.The intent of the symposium is to provide current information to farmers, ranchers, extensionists, educators, agricultural professionals and others interested in organic agriculture.

The deadline is October 1!

Learn more here!

Perspective from a Food Justice Certified Farm: Farmer Jordan Brown

Perspective from a Food Justice Certified Farm: Farmer Jordan Brown, Grows Organic and Food Justice Certified Mixed Vegetables and Fruit in North Central Florida

 

On Food Justice Certification:

A few years ago I heard about this certification and looked into it and saw what it stood for. I felt like it would be a good fit for our farm and would be a good way to let people know that our farm was trying to do things a little different than other farms in regard to the workers. Different than what I have seen on other farms. 

Food Justice Certification is important to me because it’s the only way, as far as I know, to certify that anything we’re doing labor-wise. We’re trying to pay people a living wage, have a safe and respectful work environment and trying to offer people some minimal benefits that would be associated with most jobs, but are not common in agriculture. We give people a few paid holidays off and we pay two hours a week of sick pay so it can be added up and they don’t have to worry about missing work. At the end of the season they can collect a check which lets them take off a couple of weeks. We offer all the produce they care to take from the farm. One of the long term goals is to offer overtime pay.

On Price to Farmers:

Pricing is the biggest obstacle to providing more benefits to workers. Right now, in my experience as a family-sized farm in the south, there is no retailer who is willing to pay more for produce for this certification. At least in the wholesale market, there’s no buyer who is willing to pay extra for produce that is grown without mistreating people.  Any kind of benefit always comes down to money in produce, and America is based off of the lowest possible cost of production at any given time and whoever is doing it cheapest is who sets the market price. The way we are farming now, the cost of living goes up every year so the cost to farm every year gets more expensive. A lot of piece work farms, at least here in Florida, remain stagnant. Back in the 80’s workers got paid $1.25/flat to pick strawberries and now they get between a $1-$1.30.

Having more farms participate in Food Justice Certification will help grow a greater awareness of the labor practices and unfair working conditions in the agriculture sector across America. Ultimately, more farms getting this certification will bring more money back to the farm and the farmer. Real change is needed in the farm labor sector and will happen in one of two ways: wholesalers taking smaller margins or higher prices at the retail counter that reflect the actual cost of food grown with truly sustainable practices that are good for the people and the planet.

People generally don’t care about any type of injustice until they are confronted with it and I think that if more consumers understood the injustices that happen to farm laborers in America and how difficult of a job it is for such a little amount of money, perhaps the Food Justice label would help open peoples’ eyes to those injustices. People are often willing to pay a little more when they understand that it will benefit someone else tremendously.  People all over America are paying $10-$14/lb for coffee because they think it helps get money back to that small farmer in Latin America. But people may not want to pay an extra dollar for lettuce or something here. The greatest obstacle is drumming up enough money to make payroll every week.

On the Growth of His Farm:

The growth of our farm, from being a real small operation to where we are now, is closely tied to Food Justice Certification. It helped me get more organized because FJC standards required me to start running payroll, get workers comp, filing taxes, and start keeping better records. It took some time to get everything in order and get organized because we do have to meet a lot of guidelines, at the same time, I think that organizational component has greatly benefited the farm. There are lots of larger farms that are already very organized and keep records the way we do, but they wouldn’t meet the FJC standards because of their on-farm practices.

On the Recent Move of His Farm:

Moving from Bell to Gainesville, retail sales will determine the health of our farm. As organic vegetable farms get bigger and bigger the only way for farms our size to stay in business is to move to retail sales, and having this certification sets us apart from all the other farms. In the local food scene, this is something that nobody really talks about and every farmer says they pay their employees well and treat workers with dignity, but that’s not always the case. I was exposed to agricultural injustice from farmers that I know around here. Abuse can be anywhere on any size farm. Success for us comes from the folks who come to our stand or sign-up for our CSA because they know we’re a FAIR farm and want to support good work.

The Family Garden

Jordan Brown farmed for 8 years on 25-acre farmland in Bell, Florida. His farm, The Family Garden, relocated in 2015 to Gainesville, Florida on 20-acres in the southeast of town where they are growing mixed vegetables, while maintaining their fruit production on the property in Bell. The Family Garden strives to improve the land with good environmental stewardship and to treat employees’ right, all while growing quality products at a reasonable price. “We try to have a good work environment and pay a wage people can live on.” The Family Garden produce is available locally through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, local restaurants, and farmers markets, as well as being sold wholesale throughout Florida. “As my workers and I learned together about AJP’s social justice standards, I became even surer that I had made the right decision for my farm and the people who work alongside me and my family here,” said Farmer Jordan Brown. “We’re taking a big step together, being the first farm in the southeast U.S. to participate in this program,” said Brown. “I’ve learned a lot from the process and am excited to see the program grow.”