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Posts Tagged ‘county commissioners’

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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I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me if Bee Heaven has a farm stand where they can get fresh veggies, or if there’s a place serving local food. Now, finally, it looks like Redland is going to (officially) catch up with what family farmers in other parts of the country have been doing all along. Say hello to agri-tourism!

On March 2, the Miami-Dade County Commission passed three ordinances that would allow zoning changes (effective date March 12) to permit a distillery, bed and breakfast establishments, and value-added products made from locally produced agriculture (think jams, jellies, pickles) and other ancillary uses. Farmer Margie wrote about the ordinances on her blog, and even made the trip downtown to listen to the commission meeting when the ordinances were passed. (You can download the final text of the ordinances here here and here, and read them for yourself.)

Once related laws and regulations are sorted out, expect to see more farm dinners, more local products to eat and drink, more farm stands, and unique places to stay on farms.

Read more about this in The Miami Herald:

Redland farmers get ready to grow agri-tourism

BY LAURA MORALES
llmorales@MiamiHerald.com

Glenn and Christina Whitney are trying to decide how to expand their five-acre Redland farm and produce market into a tourist destination. Should they set up a microbrewery? Open a bed and breakfast? Increase their stock of U-pick fruits and vegetables in small hydroponic planters?

“We don’t close during off-season so we could do a lot more here,” Glenn Whitney said.

With the county pushing to create an agri-tourism hot spot in southern Miami-Dade, the couple could do any of those things.

Concerned about the mounting pressure on growers over the past decade to sell their land for urban uses, county officials have made it easier for those with small farms to attract visitors by emulating the tourism cachet of California’s Napa Valley and New York’s Finger Lakes region.

“If the owners can make money and create jobs, they’ll be more prone to keep their land in agriculture,” said Miami-Dade County Commission Chairman Dennis Moss, whose district includes part of the Redland community.

Moss and eight other commissioners sponsored three recently approved ordinances that loosen restrictions on small-scale commercial ventures within the farms. The measures allow small wineries, breweries and distilleries that make drinks from produce grown onsite as well as bed-and-breakfasts with up to six guest rooms.

 Growers also will be able to buy each other’s fruits and vegetables and sell products made from them. The measures apply to all unincorporated agricultural area of the county’s southern reaches and to smaller pockets further north.

Read more: http://www.miamiherald.com/2010/03/23/1542315/redland-farmers-get-ready-to-grow.html

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The Miami-Dade County Cooperative Extension staff, in an expression of our appreciation for our supporters and friends in our recent budget resurrection, would like to invite the community to a “Thank You” reception on Tuesday, October 27th from 3 to 6 PM. As this is an informal gathering we do not expect to have a program or an agenda. No speeches or presentations, just light refreshments, snacks, and fellowship.

Please come by for afternoon break or stay the while! We all would enjoy having some time to individually thank each member of the community that worked behind the scenes, communicated with the County Commission, and/or took the time to speak at one or numerous public meetings on our behalf .

Hope to see you all.

Best regards,

Don Pybas

UF/IFAS Extension Office
18710 SW 288 St.
Homestead, FL 33030-2309
Phone  (305) 248-3311

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<nag> Have you written to your county commissioner about the proposed budget cut that would close the doors to the Miami-Dade Cooperative Extension Service? No? Still thinking about it? Maybe it’s just not that important or relevant? I mean, how could it possibly tie in with the tasty, fresh, local and organic veggies you’re going to eat from Redland Organics in a few months? Extension has a LOT to do with it! </nag>

Farmer Margie wouldn’t be where she is if it weren’t for the training that she got from Extension over the years. In her own words:

I started contacting Extension way back in the 70’s when I was in college. I got information on vegetable gardening for Florida, castrating & butchering a pig, raising and butchering chickens, canning, pickling and preserving information, how to take care of my fruit trees, and put it all to good use. In the early 80’s, I took the Master Gardener training, and received in-depth information about growing plants.

In the mid 90’s, when we started the farm, I looked to Extension to get advice on establishing my avocado grove. Later, when we expanded to vegetables, I consulted with them on variety selection, growing techniques, pest control, fertilizing. I’ve attended numerous workshops providing training on irrigation, growing, pests, diseases, etc etc etc.

Extension has been very responsive in helping develop training programs for folks interested in converting to organic productions. I always find good workshops and field days that I can bring my farm interns and apprentices to learn about growing in this tropical climate.

So… what are you waiting for? The list of commissioners is right here. Start writing!

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Did you go to the county commissioner budget meetings to state your case? No? You have several more chances. There are Budget Conference Committee (BCC) meetings on Aug 24, 25, 26 and 27 at commission chambers downtown.

The commission will hold final budget hearings on Thursday Sept 3rd at 5:01 pm and Thursday Sept. 17th at 5:01 pm . Currently the location of the hearings will be at the county commission chambers, but that might change as commissioners are expecting an overflow crowd. (The meeting location is not changing, but they are expecting a crowd. Marian, 8/21/09)

When you go, be sure to wear green. Green needs to be seen! And heard! Read and bring copies of these two documents Ivory Sheet and Green Sheet with you. They have facts and figures about the Extension program.

According to Cindy Dwyer, Master Gardener, “Remember that this is a game of numbers. If nobody shows up to protest, the result is a big zero. Organize a group of Master Gardeners and get your friends and neighbors who care about this issue to go to the meetings with you!”

If you can’t attend meetings, write letters to the commissioners. Find out how you can contact your commissioner here.

So why should CSA members and other locavores care? According to the Extension Ivory Sheet, “Miami-Dade County is considered as ground zero for new plant pests and diseases entering the United States. Many are first found in residential neighborhoods and quickly spread to agricultural areas. Cooperative Extension horticultural professionals are first responders for these invasive threats to agriculture, home horticulture, urban landscapes and the natural environment.”

Remember laurel wilt? It’s still here, and it’s not going away. Do you have an avocado tree in your yard? Cooperative Extension is the place to turn to if you want to learn how to keep your tree alive. If you’ve been enjoying Farmer Margie’s ginormous avocados this summer, and want to eat them again next summer, speak out in favor of Cooperative Extension at the commission meetings. Margie learned how to grow avocados and keep them healthy through training from Extension.

If the budget that Mayor Carlos Alvarez proposes is approved, the Extension office will close its doors forever on September 30. Everyone from the Master Gardener coordinator to the clerical staff will lose their jobs. Everyone from growers to locavores will feel the impact.

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