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Posts Tagged ‘Giant African Land Snail’

Browsing for organic seedlings at the Bee Heaven Farm tent.

Browsing for organic seedlings at the Bee Heaven Farm tent.

(part 1 of 2)

Back for its second year this October, GrowFest! was the event for gardeners and locavores. Despite rain on Saturday afternoon and a slow start on Sunday morning, well over 1300 adults and kids came to the Fruit and Spice Park to browse for plants and nosh on good eats. Farmer Margie Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farm, who organized the event (along with a group of fantastic volunteers), was delighted that the event is growing.

This year there was a mix of familiar and new vendors and exhibitors, a few less than last year, but each was worth checking out. Gardeners had plenty of plants to look at and buy, locavores found delicious things to taste, and there were plenty of interesting and knowledgeable people to talk to, with a wide variety of demos to attend.

GF-wagon

The best way to carry mass quantities of seedlings!

Bee Heaven Farm had its usual sea of organic seedlings. Along with dozens of varieties of heirloom tomatoes, you could also choose from a selection of vegetables, herbs and greens that grow well in our climate and are regularly raised at the farm. In response to customer demand, there were several varieties of eggplant, sweet and hot peppers, Asian greens, and intriguing herbs like lemongrass, curryleaf, turmeric (new this year).

Farm intern Nicole Fiori helps a customer choose heirloom tomato seedlings.

Farm intern Nicole Fiori (right)helps a customer choose heirloom tomato seedlings.

A big thanks to farm employee Luz, intern Nicole, and volunteers Dhilini, Alhen and Holly who were on hand all weekend!

Selecting loofahs and goat's milk soap.

Selecting loofahs and goat’s milk soap.

New this year was the addition of Flair’s Fayre line of goat milk products. The husband and wife team of Pat Houle and Dan McGillicuddy, along with their assistant Christine, were on hand with offerings of raw goat milk and cheeses (for pet consumption only), and an assortment of deliciously aromatic soaps that were very popular. All products are made with milk from their small herd of goats.

Margie Pikarsky, Marty Mesh and Steven Green discuss matters at the FOG tent.

Margie Pikarsky, Marty Mesh and Steven Green discuss matters at the FOG tent.

At the Florida Organic Growers and Consumers Inc. (FOG) tent, folks were selling chilled Uncle Matt’s organic citrus juices and sharing information on organic certification. Marty Mesh, the executive director, returned this year along with several staffers who were thrilled to introduce their newest statewide program, Fresh Access Bucks (FAB).

Staffer Carmen Franz explained that FAB doubles value, up to $20, that SNAP recipients can use to buy Florida grown fruits and vegetables at participating farmers markets. So far, FABs are accepted at Urban Oasis Project farmers markets and Bee Heaven Farm (in this area). This new program is funded by a grant from the state agriculture department, and Wholesome Wave, a non-profit which pioneered matching funds. Become a member to help FOG support “a sustainable and just food and farm system for all.”

Two Innovative Farmers of the Year! Margie Pikarsky (2013) and Gabriele Marewski (2012).

Two Innovative Farmers of the Year! Margie Pikarsky (2013) and Gabriele Marewski (2012).

Farmer Gabriele Marewski of Paradise Farms Organic brought two kinds of salads: cactus salad made with nopalitos, and her signature Baby Brassica Blend which includes a colorful sprinkling of edible flowers. The farm is known for its elegant, gourmet Dinner in Paradise and Brunch in Paradise series, season starting soon.

Alfredo Anez, Katie Sullivan and Gretchen Schmidt are the key people who produce Edible South Florida.

Alfredo Anez, Katie Sullivan and Gretchen Schmidt are the key people who produce Edible South Florida.

Edible South Florida magazine debuted their latest issue, which is all about local food. Many local growers and artisans are featured, and if you haunt farmers markets and locavore restaurants and cafes, they may be familiar to you too — Helen Cole’s jerky, Hani’s falafel, and Zak’s bread to name a few. I spotted a picture of farmer Margie on page 23. (Next to it is a brief essay I wrote about Farm Day.) You can pick up a copy for free at Whole Foods, Joanna’s Marketplace and other locations around town.

Giant African Land Snails (GALS) in carious stages of growth. A sample of their eggs is in the upper right corner.

Giant African Land Snails (GALS) in various stages of growth. A sample of their eggs is in the upper right corner.

And the villain of GrowFest! was back for an encore — the Giant African Land Snail (GALS). It’s an invasive species that devours over 500 kinds of plants and is capable of munching stucco off your house. Fully grown, the snail is as big as your hand, and has unique vertical jagged stripes on its shell. If you see a GALS in your yard, absolutely do NOT touch it! Call the state Division of Plant Industry at 888-397-1517 to come get it. These snails can harbor a microscopic nematode that can infect your brain and kill you. Over 131,000 GALS have been located and captured in South Florida in the past two years.

Grower Arturo Gonzalez, of Margarita's Fruits & Vegetables brought a forest of mango and avocado saplings.

Grower Arturo Gonzalez, of Margarita’s Fruit Trees, brought a forest of mango and avocado saplings.

GF-bananas

Bananas and plantains at Going Bananas

GF-bees

Beekeeping books and supplies from South Florida Bee Supplies.

Carnivorous plants from Envy Botanicals

Carnivorous plants from Envy Botanicals

Landscaping plants at Casey's Corner Nursery

Landscaping plants at Casey’s Corner Nursery.

Fresh potted herbs from Teena's Pride Farm

Fresh potted herbs from Teena’s Pride Farm.

Learn how to compost with worms, from the Fertile Earth Foundation.

Learn how to compost with worms, from the Fertile Earth Foundation.

Kamala Fletcher, Christiana Serlé, and Mike Moskos of the South Florida Food Policy Council

Kamala Fletcher, Christiana Serlé, and Mike Moskos of the South Florida Food Policy Council discuss the community’s food issues.

Ken Holden advocates incorporating Redland

Ken Holden advocates incorporating Redland.

Buy native plants from the Urban Paradise Guild

Buy native plants from the Urban Paradise Guild

(To be continued…)

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(part 1 of 2 parts)

GrowFest! was the place to be for plant lovers last weekend! Over 850 adults, plus lots of kids, came to the first-ever event held at the Fruit and Spice Park in Redland. Festival organizer Margie Pikarsky of Bee Heaven Farm was thrilled with the turnout. “It was an unqualified success!” she exclaimed. Over 500 visited just on Saturday alone, exceeding her expectations. She promised that GrowFest will be an annual event at the Park.

(L to R): Margie Pikarsky, Nick Pikarsky and Louise King of the Tropical Fruit Growers Association

GrowFest! was a grassroots fundraiser for Florida Organic Growers (FOG), which received money from the gate, as well as proceeds from sales of juice and water at their tent. “We raised over $900 for FOG from ticket and raffle sales,” Margie told me. Executive director Marty Mesh was at the event, manning their tent, and answering questions at the screening of their documentary “What’s Organic About Organic” on both days. If you missed your chance see the movie or buy a copy of the DVD, you can order it from the filmmmaker’s web site. “FOG is the non-profit that certifies organic growers in Florida, and also provides education and outreach to growers, consumers, and policy makers,” Marty explained.

Marty Mesh poured local Lakewood Organics juices at the FOG tent.

The heart of GrowFest! was all about plants. And there were all kinds to choose from — vegetable seedlings, potted herbs, banana plants and avocado trees, and more. On Saturday morning, I volunteered at the Bee Heaven Farm/Redland Organics tent, and found myself surrounded by baby plants. Long tables were loaded with over 80 varieties of organic heirloom tomato seedlings, several varieties of eggplant, hot peppers, arugula, nasturtiums, Asian greens and perennial herbs like garlic chives, curryleaf, aloe and lemongrass. Farm helper Victor and his wife Ish, and volunteers Nicole and Holly were also there to assist.

Volunteers at the Bee Heaven Farm tent (L to R): Holly Victor, Ish and Nicole.

Lots of people came to buy seedlings, and it was fun talking to them about their gardens. Most were regulars from past seasons who knew exactly what they wanted. The very first shopper was a tall man with a cart who loaded up with over two dozen plants. He said he saved seeds from his tomatoes from the year before, and was back this year to try new varieties. Soon after, Melodee Rodriguez, a dedicated mom who is in charge of the edible garden at Coconut Grove Elementary School, came with a checklist of vegetables and herbs for her school’s garden, which had been put in by Slow Food Miami three years before.

La Diva herself, Laura Lafata, with heirloom tomato seedlings.

Two other growers also had their plants for sale at the Bee Heaven area. Arturo Gonzalez of Sunshine Organic Farms was selling three varieties of avocado trees — Donnie, Simmonds and Catalina. (His farm provided grape tomatoes and a variety of vegetables for the Bee Heaven Farm CSA last season.) Organic growers Bill and Thi Squire provided lots of napa cabbage and two kinds of bok choy seedlings.

The event’s poster child Beth Dunlop came to pick out several kinds of black tomatoes.

In a big blue tent by the front of the park, Master Gardeners from Miami-Dade Extension were on hand to answer gardeners’ questions about plant problems. Other staffers gave a demo on how to use rain barrels, and the 4-H Kids Zone was set up where kids could play and learn about plants. The Dade County Farm Bureau tent did fun things with kids, based on Ag in the Classroom materials.

Kids hanging out at the Farm Bureau tent.

The villain of the event was the exotic and invasive Giant African Land Snail (GALS). The ravenous creatures are a serious threat because they’ll eat almost any kind of plant, and even gnaw on the stucco on your house. Several people from the state Division of Plant Industry were on hand with empty shells to examine (no live snails!), and had lots of information about the imported pest. A fully grown snail shell was quite pretty, smooth and shiny with brown and white stripes, and was almost the length of my hand. Don’t think of touching live GALS without gloves on because they can carry meningitis and a parasite called rat lungworm. If you see a GALS in your yard, call 888-397-1517 to report it. Over 78,000 GALS have been caught just in the past year.

DPI Ag Tech Omar Garcia holds up the shell of a fully grown Giant African Land Snail. Be on the lookout!

Ann Schmidt (left), the hardest-working volunteer of them all, at the front gate.

 

Mike Moskos (left) volunteering at the entrance table.

Fruit and Spice Park manager Chris Rollins (center) answered visitors’ questions about tropical fruits.

 

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