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Posts Tagged ‘Charles LaPradd’

Margie Pikarsky and Charles LaPradd with the new Local Flavors cookbook.

Margie Pikarsky and Charles LaPradd with the new Local Flavors cookbook.

Recently, Charles LaPradd, the county agriculture manager, stopped by Bee Heaven Farm with a special delivery. He unloaded several boxes of Redland’s latest crop — “Local Flavor: Recipes Raised in the Florida Redland” — a very special cookbook two and a half years in the making.

It’s filled with recipes for local produce gathered from growers and cooks. The list of contributors is a who’s who of area growers and cooks. Farmer Margie Pikarsky has three of her own recipes: Avocado Salad (or Chunky Guacamole), Calabaza & Watercress Salad, and Strawberry Black Satin Pudding. “Veronique,” a Sea Grape Martini, was originally concocted with Margie’s sea grapes for a Slow Food Miami event.

If it grows in Redland, there’s a mouthwatering recipe for it, and almost all look quick and easy to make. Carambola is coming into season now, and Star Fruit Chicken Salad caught my eye. A useful chart in the back lists what’s growing when. This is a great book for CSA members to have in their kitchen.

Bios of various farmers were originally included in the  cookbook, but unfortunately didn't make the cut for the final version.

Bios of various farmers were originally included in the cookbook, but unfortunately didn’t make the cut for the final version.

The book is beautifully produced, with luscious pictures of produce and and lovely countryside. Yes, that’s what Miami-Dade County’s back yard looks like! If there is one disappointment, there are no pictures of the finished dishes. The book is thoughtfully designed to be used in a kitchen, with glossy, heavy pages to stand up to drips and spills, and a spiral binding that lets pages lay flat. There’s plenty of white space to scribble comments.

Charles delivered 100 copies, which Margie is selling on her summer web store for $16 each (including tax). You can also buy it from the Dade County Farm Bureau. The book will also be available at the Homestead Book Fair on October 5th. Three thousand copies have been printed. “There’s no room to move in my office,” LaPradd said, laughing. Help him free up some floor space and buy a book!

redland-raised-logo-smallThe cookbook was published so that people can learn about the area, and how to use its products, LaPradd explained. Proceeds from its sales will go toward raising money to pay for colorful produce stickers with the Redland Raised logo.

Starting this October, those stickers plus in-store displays should be in Publix stores so shoppers can clearly identify what’s locally grown. Some of the local produce to look for (as it comes into season) is green beans, yellow squash, zucchini, boniato, okra and avocados. And if you don’t find those displays, or if they’re on produce that clearly isn’t from here, complain to the store’s produce manager. This is information that LaPradd’s office provides free to stores.

If Redland Raised sounds vaguely familiar, the brand was launched with great hope and promise on October 29, 2009. Various dignitaries including LaPradd, county mayor Carlos Alvarez, several commissioners, a bunch of Redland growers, and store execs gathered in the produce department of a Publix near Tropical Park for the kickoff. But a cold winter freeze that damaged a lot of crops caused a setback, and both local veggies and signage disappeared from stores. Now the program is rallying a comeback, and hopefully sales of the new “eat local” cookbook will revive interest from both cooks and retailers.

The Redland Raised brand was LaPradd’s brainchild, and it was designed to be used in conjunction with the state ag department’s Fresh From Florida brand. Only Redland growers who are members of the Florida Agricultural Promotional Campaign (FAPC) can use the Redland Raised logo to promote their produce as grown in Redland.

Surrounded by a bounty of local, Redland produce, Charles LaPradd speaks at the launch in 2009.

Surrounded by a bounty of local, Redland produce, Charles LaPradd speaks at the launch in 2009.

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UPDATE: Mayor Gimenez is coming to Homestead to meet with the community!

An additional Town Hall Meeting was recently scheduled for August 24, 2011 at 7:00 pm. The address is: William Dickinson Community Center, 1601 Krome Avenue, Homestead FL. 

By now you’ve already heard that the new Miami-Dade County Mayor, Carlos Gimenez, is cutting the county budget. When it comes to local agriculture, these cuts could run very deep.

To slash an estimated $1.2 million from the county’s general operating fund, over $700,000 for UF/IFAS Extension Services was proposed to be gutted. If county funding is drastically cut, Extension will lose matching funds from University of Florida. To shave off another $300,000 in the budget, the county Agricultural Manager’s office would be completely eliminated.

Cuts to Extension

Since the Palmetto Bay Town Hall meeting on August 9th, Mayor Gimenez said he would reinstate full funding to Extension, and partial funding for the Agricultural Manager. (However, it is unclear what “full funding” means for Extension, since its budget was cut by 20% back in 2009 by former mayor Carlos Alvarez, and never completely restored since then.)

The originally proposed budget cuts put some Extension programs at risk of disappearing, and crippled others. At risk were a number of important consumer and agriculture programs that have a huge impact on the community, such as the 4H youth leadership program, and various consumer services for low income families and seniors.

Both the urban horticulture program assistant position, and the Commercial Agriculture and Horticulture programs were threatened with elimination. These programs provide ongoing training and certification for vegetable and fruit growers, landscapers and nurserymen. Growers would have to spend extra money to travel to other counties to get their industry-required training.

Ongoing workshops and seminars for commercial farmers were slated to be completely wiped out. This is the heart and soul of Extension, which teams up with UF researchers to provide growers the latest information how to fight diseases and pests (like the red bay ambrosia beetle which threatens the avocado industry), new methods of production, and new varieties of plants and crops.

Agriculture Manager

Also on the chopping block was the county Agriculture Manager. The job is currently held by Charles LaPradd, a fourth generation local grower who acts as the liason between county government and local growers. His voice is the only one in local government speaking up for the county’s $2.7 billion industry in this county. (That’s only second to tourism in income in Miami-Dade.) In the space of six years, the Ag Manager brought in almost $7 million in grant funding used to support and promote local agriculture.

Among many projects, one of the most visible was the Redland Raised campaign, designed to get branding and recognition for locally grown food in Publix supermarkets. Charles was involved in the push to pass three new county ordinances last year that promote B&B’s and agritourism, and allow growers to make and sell jams, pickles and other value added products.

Be the voice

The current budget proposal is only preliminary. It can and has already been changed. Bowing to pressure from a vocal showing at a packed Town Hall meeting in Palmetto Bay last week, Mayor Gimenez has already reversed his stance.

Go and make your voice heard in person! Mayor Gimenez is holding a series of Town Hall meetings through the month of August, at various places around the county. It’s rumored that the mayor said the squeaking wheel will get the grease, so word to the wise, get out there and squeak speak!

The remaining meetings are listed below:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Location: Miami Art Museum, 101 West Flagler Street, Miami, FL 33130
Time: 7:00pm – 8:00pm

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Location: Coral Gables Country Club, 997 North Greenway Drive, Coral Gables, FL 33134
Time: 7:00pm – 8:00pm

Wednesday, August 23, 2011

Location: Hialeah Senior High School, 251 East 47th Street, Hialeah, FL 33013
Time: 7:00pm – 8:00pm

If you can’t make it to a Town Hall omeeting, contact Carlos Gimenez’s office at:

Office of the Mayor
Stephen P. Clark Center
111 NW 1st Street
Miami, FL 33128
mayor@miamidade.gov
305-375-5071

However, the commissioners still need to vote on the proposed budget, and there’s a good chance their vote could still reduce or eliminate funding. There will be two public hearings, on September 8th and September 22nd, at Commission Chambers in the Stephen P. Clark Center in downtown Miami. Next comes the commisioners’ final approval for the budget. You can find a list of commissioners and their contact information here.

Locavores, this is not the time to be complacent and think the worst is over. Don’t sit back and watch support and resources dwindle for your local farmers and fellow citizens.  Educate your commissioners on how important Extension and the Ag Manager are to local agriculture — and the local food scene. You still have time to let them know how the budget cuts will also impact your eating choices or your business.

Download the proposed FY 2011-12 budget from the county web site.

Download an intelligent and passionate editorial written by Mike Dill, re the impact of cuts to ag services, which was recently published in the South Dade News-Leader.

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Freeze’s toll

The Miami Herald
Posted on Sat, Jan. 16, 2010

Freeze takes huge toll on Florida agriculture

http://www.miamiherald.com/business/story/1428216.html

BY ELAINE WALKER
ewalker@MiamiHerald.com

Although the freezing weather is finally gone, consumers in South Florida and across the country will soon feel the impact at the grocery store.From green beans and yellow corn in Homestead to tomatoes in Immokalee, the freeze had a devastating effect on the vegetable industry. In some cases, entire fields were destroyed, with statewide losses expected to stretch into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

While some farmers have managed to salvage part of their crops and others are already replanting, supply is going to be a problem for at least a month or two, depending on the crop. That in turn translates into higher prices for consumers.

“Tomatoes that were trading for $14 for a 25-pound box, now they are up at $24 a box,” said Gene McAvoy, a vegetable expert with the University of Florida. “Consumers can probably expect to see prices go up about $1 a pound. But at a certain point, the consumer is going to balk and people will start to back away from certain items.”

The timing of the freeze couldn’t have been worse for Florida’s vegetable farmers, who were in the midst of the peak growing season. During the winter months, Florida growers are the largest U.S. supplier of vegetables.

Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles Bronson told state legislators earlier this week he believes that about 30 percent of the state’s agricultural crops were damaged or destroyed. With losses expected to reach into the hundreds of millions of dollars, that’s another blow to the state’s already fragile economy.

Florida growers typically generate about $8 billion a year in annual agricultural revenue, said Florida Agriculture spokesman Terence McElroy.

“The industry is going to be hit hard,” McElroy said, “but farmers are a pretty resilient group.”

In Miami-Dade County alone, the losses are estimated at just over $250 million, which is about 40 percent of the more than $600 million in revenue agriculture generates each year, said Charles LaPradd, agriculture manager for Miami-Dade County.

Hardest hit in Miami-Dade were the row crops like green beans, squash and corn, said Katie Edwards, executive director of the Dade County Farm Bureau. About 30 percent of the county’s tomato crop took a hit, Edwards said, but growers are still trying to assess the damage.

“We got some stuff that got hurt and some stuff that made it,” said Freddy Strano, a Homestead tomato grower, who estimates his losses could range between 20 percent and 50 percent of his 250 acres. “It’s hard to tell. Anything on the outside of the plant got exposed and is no good. We’re trying to salvage what we can.”

In the Immokalee area, which is one of the major areas for tomato production, produce losses are estimated at over $100 million, McAvoy said. Tomatoes in Immokalee were nearly wiped out for the winter season.

Bob Spencer of West Coast Tomato says about 95 percent of the tomatoes that he would be picking over the next 45 days in Immokalee are gone. He estimates he lost close to 250 acres of crops, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“We haven’t experienced a freeze like this in 20 years,” Spencer said. “It reminds the ego what can happen. Farming is a tough sport. It’s not flag football. It’s tackle football.”

The last freeze of this magnitude Florida experienced was in 1989. But this recent cold spell potentially was more devastating for farmers because the freezing temperatures lingered for a week — 10 days in some places. Many crops can withstand one or two days of freezing temperatures, but with prolonged exposure there is no escape.

“Typically if you water the crops ahead of the cold period, it will help,” said John Alger of Alger Farms in South Miami-Dade. “A bulletproof vest works only to a certain size gun. If you keep getting shot in the same place, eventually it’s going to get through.”

Alger, who grows sweet corn and landscape trees, estimates he lost “way over a million” dollars from the freeze, which destroyed about 75 percent of his 1,250 acres of sweet corn.

“It’s not only the farmer, but everyone in related businesses from the truck drivers to the crop dusters, the harvesting crew and the packing houses are going to be impacted,” he said. “The multiplier effect on the economy is devastating.”

Florida tomato growers are already worrying about how to avoid panic over the tomato shortages and make the current supply last as long as possible until the spring crop is ready for harvest in late March.

“The tomatoes we have are going to be metered out to try to meet our customer demand,” said Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange.

“It’s going to be an opportunity for Mexico to make inroads, and that’s never a good thing.”

© 2010 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.miamiherald.com

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Redland Raised, Fresh From FloridaRedland Raised launch event:
Thursday Oct. 29th, 10- 11 am
Publix at Tropicaire Shopping Center
7805 SW 40th Street, Miami

Starting this week, you won’t have to go too far to find locally grown produce. Redland Raised branded green beans, yellow squash, zucchini, boniato, okra and avocados will be available at all 1000 Publix stores in the state, during the local growing season which runs from November through April.

Miami-Dade County, Publix and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Fresh From Florida program teamed up to promote a “buy local” program throughout the county and state.

Charles LaPradd, Miami-Dade’s agriculture manager, was quoted as saying, “We were looking for a way to just make our local produce down here known a little bit better,” LaPradd said. “When you go local, you go green.”

Needless to say, larger local growers are delighted with this huge new market for their produce. Publix says the Redland Raised will help them keep transportation costs down, which should result in lower prices for customers, and a smaller carbon footprint.

Miami-Dade County’s agriculture industry is number two in the state (after Palm Beach County) and 18th in the country, generating an estimated $2.7 billion for the local economy.

On the Miami-Dade County web site, on the Office of the County Mayor’s page:

Buy Local, Redland Raised available at Publix

For South Floridians who want to buy local… the shopping experience is about to get even better. Thanks to a partnership with Publix Super Markets, more than 1,000 Publix stores will soon feature locally-grown fresh produce. The produce will be dubbed Redland Raised.

Along with ”organic”, ”buy-one-get-one-free”, and ”on sale” – Redland Raised can be the new buzz word in grocery store shopping. While Publix has always supported our local agriculture industry – shoppers who walk the produce aisle can now look for special labeling and displays that show when green beans, zucchini, avocados and more come from our very own backyard.

Redland Raised is a way to educate and encourage our residents to invest in local produce and in turn, stimulate our local economy. Miami-Dade County’s agriculture industry is number 2 in the state and number 18 in the country, generating an estimated $2.7 billion for our local economy.

I would like to thank Publix Super Markets for making it possible to promote our local brand, and for their continued investment in our community.

Enjoy Redland Raised!

Sincerely,
Mayor Carlos Alvarez

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