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Sharing is caring: CSAs and the benefits of becoming a shareholder

By: FOG Intern Taylor Neilly

Farmers work diligently to grow and provide the very sustenance that nurtures, sustains, and contributes to the health and wellbeing of consumers.  Some farmers take this responsibility a step further by ensuring that their produce is grown and harvested sustainably and in harmony with the environment. Supporting the hard work of these farmers is of the utmost importance in order to promote environmentally-sound agricultural practices and insure that we, as consumers, are getting the freshest, healthiest, seasonal produce and goods available. Visiting local markets is a great way to show support and get a share of the yield, but there is also a way to take that commitment a step further, by purchasing a share in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program.

A hearty basket at Worden FarmBy becoming a member of a CSA, you are essentially buying a portion of a farms’ (or multiple farms, depending on the arrangement of the CSA) harvest for an entire season. Typically, CSA enrollment begins at the beginning of every growing season when shares are offered to the public. Once a membership is purchased, shareholders receive a weekly allotment, a box or bag, of farm fresh produce and goods. Most allowances are also accompanied by a newsletter or pamphlet which highlights news from the farm, information about the produce and goods included in the week’s quota, and often times recipes and recommended methods of cooking the produce.

Some CSAs strictly offer produce from one particular farm, while other CSAs partner up two or more farms, or even local businesses, and offer a grab bag of various products like eggs, milk, cheeses, baked goods, and fruits, along with veggies.

Because of the diversity of the farms, it’s important for prospective shareholders to do a little shopping around before signing up. Do a little research, compare options and prices, is it a predetermined box or can you choose your produce, where are their pick-up sites, are there volunteer work options, what are their growing practices, recognize that cooking, if it isn’t already, will become a part of your life, do they offer any u-pick, can you visit the farm, and feel free to ask questions before making the financial commitment.

CSAs are a mutually beneficiary relationship for both the farmer and the consumer.  Farmers incur costs before a seed is even planted and continue to have costs until the harvest comes in, when potentially they can have KYV Farm - Beaches Green Market, Jacksonvilleincome flow in. CSAs offer the farmer a way for them to help cover the upfront costs of farming.  Consumers and farmers are taking this risk together, for both the bounty of the harvest and the potential crop failure. CSA shareholders benefit by receiving incredibly fresh, local, seasonal veggies and farm goods.  Additionally, it allows shareholders to try different varieties and/or produce they are not familiar with.  Many shareholders express the joy in getting to know the farmer, his/her family, the farm and the farm’s other CSA shareholders, offering them a sense of real community. Ultimately, CSA programs offer a more intimate connection to the food we eat, the land from which it comes from, and the farmers who labor to bring it all to us.

With summer coming to an end, and fall quickly approaching, CSA signups are beginning for the upcoming growing season. If you are interested, get to know a farmer at your favorite veggie stand at a local market and/or check out the list of CSA farms on FOG’s website.

Saving Organic Citrus

In the past ten years, citrus greening disease has ravaged the American citrus crop. This disease has wiped out 90,000 acres of citrus in the country, resulted in a loss of 8,000 jobs, and has dealt a $4.5-billion blow to the U.S. economy. The organic sector has been hit especially hard, since until now most research on methods to control this devastating disease have focused on techniques involving dangerous chemicals or genetic engineering.

The Organic Center is partnering partnering with industry members, academics, and other non-profits, to fund a multi-year study examining organic solutions to ward off citrus greening, and help organic citrus growers fight this deadly disease without resorting to dangerous chemicals or genetic engineering.

About Citrus Greening

Citrus greening disease, or Huanglongbing (HLB), threatens the citrus industry on a massive scale. It has devastated millions of acres of citrus crops throughout the United States and abroad, ravaging countries in Asia, Africa,Save Organic Citrus and South America. The highly destructive disease can spread quickly, and once a tree is infected it cannot be cured.

Citrus greening is spread through the Asian citrus psyllid, a small insect that spreads the disease as it feeds on the leaves and stems of citrus trees. These psyllids are prolific breeders, with each female laying up to 800 eggs. Some trees can be infested with 40,000 psyllids at any one time. Infected trees produce green, misshapen bitter fruits that unsuitable for sale, and most infected trees die within a few years. Since 2006, citrus greening has cost over 4.5 billion dollars in lost revenue in Florida alone. It is also responsible for the loss of over 8,000 jobs. Citrus greening threatens to continue to devastate the Florida industry, and is beginning to affect the California, Arizona, and Texas citrus industries.

Unfortunately, most of the research efforts toward controlling citrus greening focus on methods that are not compliant with organic standards. For example, funding has centered on projects such as using synthetic pesticides to kill citrus psyllids and breeding varieties of citrus that are resistant to citrus greening through genetic modification.

The Study

Additional research on organic-compliant methods for controlling citrus greening is needed.

To address this issue, The Organic Center proposes a three year project, in collaboration with Ben McLean of Uncle Matt’s Organic and University of Florida entomologists Michael Rogers and Ron Brlansky, to determine the efficacy of labeled organic pesticides for controlling the Asian citrus psyllid and potential for organic resistant germplasm.

Specifically, they will be conducting field tests examining sprays of labeled organic insecticides that include pyrethrins and Neem oil extracts for direct control, sprays of biological materials such as Chromobacter (Grandevo) and Beauvaria (Mycotrol) for biological control, and enhancement of these materials via use of filtered molasses and organic oil-based surfactants as adjuvants.  We will also examine a grove of Temple Oranges budded onto Cleopatra Mandarin rootstock showing high levels of resistance to citrus greening to identify possible defense and resistance genes, which could be used to breed non-GMO, resistant varieties of citrus.

The total cost for this project is $310,000.


How You Can Help

Support the campaign! Visit the crowdfunding website for more details on how you can support the campaign.

Spread the word! We need help spreading the word about citrus greening and its devastating effects on organic citrus.

Join us to help find organic solutions for growers.  Together we can save organic citrus! 

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!

Get a sneak peek of a new short film, “Hungry for Justice: Spotlight on the South” at Cinema Verde!

Folks in Gainesville will get a sneak peek of a locally produced film, Hungry for Justice: Spotlight on the South, at the local Cinema Verde environmental film festival on Sun., Feb. 16 at 5:30 p.m. at the Depot Station, 201 SE Depot Avenue.

Hungry for Justice provides a snapshot of the injustices present in our current food system and introduces one of the promising market-based solutions that has arisen—Food Justice Certification.  It tells the story of one farm in the South and their commitment to focus on social justice issues for their farmworkers by seeking this certification and market label. Food Justice Certification, a project of the Agricultural Justice Project (AJP), is a unique program in the domestic fair trade movement as it is the only verification program in the marketplace that has included farmworkers and farmworker representatives in the development of the certification standards and includes them in the verification process.  Hungry for Justice is a short film (16 minutes) and is just one of over 30 films being shown throughout the weekend.

The Fifth Annual Cinema Verde is being held Feb. 13 – 16, 2014 at the beautifully renovated historic Gainesville Depot Station, 201 SE Depot Ave. More than 30 films will be screened, with live music, food trucks and a beer garden running throughout the festival. An EcoFair showcasing local businesses will be held Sat., Feb. 15, as well as a Candidates Forum for city commission candidates.  Farmers are welcome to pay for a table to sell their produce as part of the EcoFair at Saturday.  Several filmmakers will join the event either in person or via Skype, including a visit with Mark Kitchell, director of Fierce Green Fire on Feb. 13.

The Cinema Verde film festival organizers are honoring farmers in two ways on Sun., Feb. 16.  Farmers get in free this day and there will be a local food potluck from 6 to 7 p.m. Please join us!  Potluck will be nestled right between Hungry for Justice: Spotlight on the South and GMO OMG.

A party will kick off the four-day festival with live music provided by Cathy DeWitt’s jazz trio Moon Dancer and tasty food and drinks from local restaurants. They will raffle off a pair of VIP Passes that will give access to all films and events throughout the festival, as well as four day passes. The VIP Reception is our way of thanking our sponsors and volunteers (for whom admission is free) and to highlight the films and showcase the businesses that make Cinema Verde a success.

Full schedule and film trailers can be viewed at

FOG partners with Florida farmers markets to launch Fresh Access Bucks

Amid snow flurries in other states, Florida’s bounty is upon as we gear up for our busiest growing season.  A trip to the local farmers market bestows the opportunity to appreciate the colorful mix of fruits and vegetables our state offers, with greens, carrots, broccoli, beans, citrus, tomatoes, lettuce, tropical fruit and so much more!

Nationwide, farmers markets have become increasingly popular. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports that there were 7,864 U.S. farmers markets in 2012, a 28% increase in just two years. Consumers are lured by the colorful sights, sounds and aromas, as well as a desire to know where their food comes from, how it is grown, its safety and quality and how to prepare it. As a nation, we’ve re-discovered the pleasures of cooking and eating in and begun to grow more food at home.

There’s a movement now to re-enable Supplemental Nutrition Assistance benefits (SNAP, formally known as food stamp) recipients to shop at farmers markets to address issues of food security in low income areas. Through a grant from the Florida Department of Consumer and Agricultural Services, FOG started Fresh Access Bucks, an incentive program for farmers market EBT throughout our state.

For example, an individual spending $10 with SNAP at a participating market can buy $20 worth of fruits and vegetables– increasing revenues for small scale farmers and making fruits and vegetables much more affordable for low-income Florida residents. Chris Brockel, executive director at Fair Share CSA, describes the impact of farmers market EBT and incentive programs nationwide. “It’s popular these days to beat up on food stamp users as being unhealthy and not making wise choices. The success of a program like this proves the opposite. When you give people options, they will make choices that we would consider to be the ‘right choices.”

The impact of farmers market EBT incentive programs is astounding. Nationally in 2012, 40,000 incentive program consumers purchased fresh, healthy produce from local farmers at partnering farm-to-retail venues, an increase from 20,000 participants in 2010. Ninety percent of incentive program consumers reported increasing their consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. On average, 27% of total market sales at participating farm-to-retail venues were from incentive program consumers. In response to increased sales, farmers expanded acreage/production, diversified products and added additional hoop houses or greenhouses. Currently small scale farmers receive less than 1% of the approximately $5 billion in federal nutrition assistance dollars that flow into Florida.  With more funds spent locally, programs such as Fresh Access Bucks support a more resilient, local economy.

A Fresh Access Bucks market manager partner in Miami explains more, “When SNAP customers realize that they can get more food with their food stamp benefits using Fresh Access Bucks, they take advantage of the program and eat more healthy, fresh Florida-grown fruits and vegetables. Sometimes they are skeptical, thinking it is too good to be true, and we have to convince them that it real. Once they try it, they are thrilled, especially now that SNAP benefits have been cut by average of $42.00/month for a family of four.”  For a single mom that shops with Fresh Access Bucks at a farmers market year round, “The market is a godsend. I often buy 10 bunches of kale to make kale chips for my kids to snack on during the week.  It’s very exciting to bring some of my older kids to the market, and hear them say, “mom, let’s get more carrots!”

With the busy time for farmers markets underway, we are excited about the nine Fresh Access Bucks market partners we have statewide. By the end of 2014, we’ll have twenty markets participating, helping to make fresh, fruits and vegetables more accessible to all.

Our current market partners include the Urban Oasis Project and the markets they manage in Miami-Dade: SW Community Farmers Market, Upper East Side Farmers Market, Verde Gardens Farmers Market; the Alachua County Farmers Market and SWAG Mobile Market in Alachua; Bee Heaven Farm at the Pinecrest Farmers Market in Miami-Dade; the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market in Pinellas; the Dania Beach PATCH Market in Broward and the Brevard County Farmers Market.

Visit our website at or contact Carmen Franz for more information at

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.

Farm Highlight: Bee Heaven Farm

125-pei tsai Bee Heaven Farm, located near Homestead, started with a dream. Owner Margie Pikarsky and her family started their own family garden and experimented with various plants and organic growing  techniques that were suitable to south Florida’s subtropical climate.

In 1995, the family purchased 5 acres in the heart of the historic Redland district. They wanted to have a place where their daughter could grow up carefree without worrying about chemical exposure  and enjoy food in an environmentally-friendly way. Two years later, they were certified organic by Florida Organic Growers organic certification agency, Quality Certification Services (QCS).

Today, Bee Heaven Farm grows Asian greens, lettuce mix, arugula, heirloom tomatoes and vegetables, multi-colored carrots, herbs, avocadoes and other tropical fruit. They also have eggs, honey,  luffa, specialty bananas and longans.

The Farm sells their products at the Pinecrest Gardens Farmers Market in Pinecrest during the winter season and through their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, which has approximately 300 members.

Bee Heaven Farm also gives back to the local community through donations to the Homestead Soup Kitchen. They accept EBT and have partnered with FOG to offer Fresh Access Bucks, a double-value program. In the past, Bee Heaven Farm’s generous CSA members have donated some of their shares to needy families.

Bee Heaven Farm, along with Redland Organics, hosts GrowFest!, a two-day festival held at the Fruit and Spice Park. The event was established to raise of the agricultural area, help educate growers and gardeners about what can be grown here in South Florida, and provide plants and resources to start out the growing season. The festival sells produce and highlights artisans who craft their products with locally-grown ingredients and hosts food vendors who sell foods prepared with locally-grown items.avos

The event donates $1 of each paid admission to an organization. In 2012, the event benefitted FOG. In 2013, the event will benefit the Urban Oasis Project, a local organization whose mission it is to bring fresh, healthy, local food accessible to all.

The 2012 event drew 1,400 people, a big increase over the previous year. It’s meant to be a family event. Lots of children attend – we counted more than 250 this year, and there were educational activities for kids, as well as music, workshops and presentations on many aspects of food production, from growing information to cottage food laws to beekeeping and backyard chickens.

Mark your calendars! Next year’s event will be held the weekend after Columbus Day.

For more information on Bee Heaven Farm, please visit their website or like them on Facebook!

Do you want a sustainable food and farm future?

Love your local farmers market? The future of all farms that sell at farmers markets could be jeopardy thanks to the upcoming Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).

FSMA is the first major overhaul of our nation’s food safety practices since 1938. It includes new regulations for produce farms and for facilities that process food for people to eat. Florida Organic Growers supports the efforts to create a safer food system however FSMA could be incredibly detrimental to small and sustainable and organic farms.

The new proposed rules were written to apply to large farms and processors. They are at risk of placing an unfair burden on small family farmers, targeting sustainable and organic farming, and reducing the availability of fresh, local food in our communities. This is unacceptable. New food safety rules make compliance so costly that the FDA itself predicts it will drive some farmers out of business. In the long run, that means fewer people will start to farm, and more farmers will have to seek off-farm jobs to keep farming.

Tell the FDA we need rules that work for farmers! The comment period ends next Friday, November 15!

Here is how YOU can help:


  • Check out the National Coalition of Sustainable Agriculture’s FSMA website to get up to speed on just what these rules will mean for producers and processors.
  • Start asking questions – how might these rules impact me? The people I work with? The farmers I know?


  • Submit your own comments to FDA! Click here to begin! Reminder, the comment period ends next Friday, November 15!
  • Tell the FDA to align rules with current National Organic Program rules!
  • Ask why pesticides and GMO’s aren’t considered a possible risk to food safety!
  • Every comment helps, no matter how short. Don’t be intimidated by complexities of the law!
  • Encourage allies, stakeholders, and others to reach out and to submit comments! Anyone who is involved in any aspect of our food system needs to know about – and comment on – these rules. Especially small farmers!

If you want a sustainable food and farm future – one where sustainable and organic farms thrive, everyone has access to fresh, healthy food, and farming works hand-in-hand with protecting our natural resources – you need to take action NOW!

#fixFSMA today!

Tales out of Africa

By: Charley Andrews, Hammock Hollow Farm

I guess one of the things I really like about the VOCA volunteer consultation assignments is being able to be whisk away from my farm after a season of toil half away around the globe, many times to a beautiful place, to work with farmers dealing with like or different problems.  Somewhat like a working vacation, although after a busy season doing nothing sounds particularly grand, however for me it becomes drab very soon. I really enjoy lending a hand to fellow agronomists around the globe.

In the last six years, I have traveled to three different African countries on many different volunteer projects. All have been rewarding, however this last project in western Kenya has been the most trying. kenya map

The setting was idyllic, my dwelling a cottage at a country club in the highlands above 2000 meters elevation with cool mornings and evenings, temperate days and a relaxed Kenyan attitude similar to the Mexican manana profile.  However, underlying the surface was turmoil of disease, malaria and typhoid, that made a deadly presence felt at the local level of farmer/rural dweller to compound his current problems of little rainfall as their farming season began.

I was located at Kitale, a highland agricultural center that is the maize (corn) belt of Kenya and was working with a small seed company in a marketing project. The company sold seed to many poor rural farmers of several tribal cultures cheaper than the main government supported seed company, Kenya Seed Company. The whole area was planted basically in maize (corn) as a monoculture and at the moment it grew quite well.  Besides the regions deadly diseases, the deprived rural farmer has very low hopes of having to deal with a new problem of GMO seeds imported from abroad, not intended to help him as much as to add to the bottom line of such companies as Monsanto and Pioneer Seed corporations and the likes of such trans-international agricultural corporations. Over production in good seasons leads to depressingly low prices for the farmer so what are these corporations really trying to market?

I saw on the news a blip on Zambia, a small east central African country north of Zimbabwe, where there was a warehouse filled with thousands of tons of genetically altered corn donated by the U.S. for famine aid. The Zambian government refused release of the corn for human consumption to the famine victims stating health concerns. The commentator reported that people in the USA had been consuming this GMO type of corn for years. The only GMO corn I knew about that was unknowing and illegally consumed by in the U.S. was the Starlink stink (Taco Bell tortillas). As soon as it became publicly known, it was taken off the market by the FDA.

Who is paying for this GMO corn sent to famine-ridden third world areas for the poor to consume? Are the producing seed companies donating them and paying for transportation, or is it our tax dollars paying for this collusion of trying to feed grain, illegal for human consumption in our country, to starving people of the undeveloped countries in this world?

Hearsay from an informed individual that sits on a formal environmental committee of scientist in Nairobi that opposes the use of GMO herbicide resistant gene maize seed, developed by Monsanto and is in the process of being licensed for sale by Pioneer Seed, explained that there is a plan to lobby the Kenyan government by Monsanto to legalize the GMO- RR gene maize seed marketed by these trans-national corporations and then the seed companies will supply maize farmers with their first season of herbicide free.  The herbicide coming from another third world country that has banned its use because of environmental concerns! In a time of shaky economic ethics, where does the greedy concern for bottom line end and concern for our fellow beings and our planet begin? Clearly there is a line.

I’d like to quote someone I’ve always held in high esteem and has certainly had the health of the land and its people at heart:

“We need to have in mind economic models of sustainability that are based in nature or in primitive cultures, so that proposals to help farmers cope with a bad situation can be evaluated against some standard of permanence. The point is we need an economic order that respects biological and cultural diversity.”  Wes Jackson: Sculptures in Unhewn Stone.

Charley Andrews is the owner of Hammock Hollow Herb Farm, a certified organic specialty farm that grows vegetables and 60 different types of culinary herbs for upscale restaurants.  Hammock Hollow Herb Farm is located in Island Grove, a remote hardwood hammock with lots of wildlife and 20 miles from Gainesville. 

Florida Organic Growers EBT Program — Past, Present and Future

By: Derek Helmick, Community Food Project Coordinator  EBT LOGO2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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