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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Happy Holidays to you and yours.
For our future,