Hello Redland Ramblers!
Guest blogger Melissa Contreras here again. It’s been several weeks since the last post, and I apologize for that. Most of that time was spent waiting for photos from the official IFAS photographer, my one reliable source of photos from the conference. The poor overworked guy was traveling with several assignments to keep up with, and apologizes for not getting them out in a timely manner. We forgive him. Life’s too short. As promised, this post details the fabulous Florida local food lunches and the Conference workshops. If it’s not enough, well then I guess you’ll just have to attend next year’s conference!
There are omnivore and vegan options at every year’s conference, and both are amazing, featuring Florida food, real food: meat from pastured animals, vegetables and fruits from our fair state’s wide repertoire, milk from small herds of grass-roaming and grass-eating cows, and eggs from hens which get to freely scratch the soil and eat a smorgasbord of bugs and assorted plants, expressing their “chicken-ness” under the Sunshine State’s skies.
The fabulous selections from this year’s menu:
These delicious dishes were made with food provided from small farms all over Florida. Our Redland farmers provided ‘Donnie’ avocado (Bee Heaven Farm), mangos (Dr. Jonathan Crane of TREC), and longans from Guara Ki farm. Summer in the Redlands means tropical fruit, so we gave the rest of Florida a taste of the tropics.
Breakout sessions followed several tracks of interest: alternative energy, business and marketing, livestock, horticulture, organic and sustainable farming, policy and regulations. This conference is geared toward small farmers, and there were lots of them present looking for ways to make their farms better, branch out into new enterprises, market their products, and more. This year’s included urban farmers and local food enthusiasts and activists, in addition to farmers.
The different tracks of interest included valuable lectures and workshops. Here’s a sampling of the workshops: Earth Wind and Fire: Renewable Energy Options; Agritourism; Aquaculture and Aquaponics; Minor Fruit Crops; The Excitement about Social Marketing – How it Can Help Your Operation; Pasture Management; Grass Fed Beef: How Do We Get There?; Poultry Management; Expanding Your Fruit Portfolio: Stone Fruit & Muscadine Grapes; Healthy Schools, Healthy Kids – Florida Farm to School Programs; High-Quality Compost for Organic and Conventional Farms; Advanced Disease Management for Organic Vegetables; Small Farm Friendly Approaches to Food Safety; Diversifying the Income Portfolio for Organic Products; and Direct Marketing Regulations (How to Get Products to Market Legally). Next year’s workshops will be scheduled according to feedback from this year’s conference.
It was an information-packed weekend, with plenty of fun and networking. Vendors in the exhibition hall sold everything from organic t-shirts with organic slogans on them, to fish emulsion fertilizer, to packaging for tomatoes and strawberries, to complete aquaponics systems, to worm poop fertilizer, to hydroponic growing systems, to Florida grass-fed beef, to info about becoming certified organic, and so much more.
And who doesn’t love seeing the animals at the livestock exhibit? I spent an hour in there looking at and sometimes petting cows, llamas and alpacas with babies (below), and lots of interesting and unusual poultry breeds.
Did I mention that this conference was next door to the national convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses? This made for heavy traffic on Sunday morning, with the JWs in their Sunday best. This explains why they did not come knocking on your door that weekend….(I stand corrected- it was a regional conference, thanks for finding that out Margie. There sure were lots of them… )
So, Marian will be back soon. I have to stop or someone might think I have taken her blog over. A coup de blogue, golpe de blogo, or other messy affair could be suspected, but no worries, she will be back to tell you more of the Redlands and its farmers. Thanks for letting me share…