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Posts Tagged ‘small farms conference’

Small Farm Conf 2011

August 2-4, 2013

The 5th Annual Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference promises to inform and inspire agricultural innovators.

Join us August 2-4 in Kissimmee, Florida for farm tours, a trade show, networking opportunities, live animal exhibits, hands-on workshops, and delicious locally-grown food! Don’t miss this chance to learn more about farming as well as alternative enterprises such as beekeeping, hydroponics, grass-fed beef and more.  You will have the opportunity to interact with other farmers and industry professionals and get all of your questions answered.

Early bird registration discount is available.  Register today at: http://www.conference.ifas.ufl.edu/smallfarms/registration.html

Location:

Osceola Heritage Park
1875 Silver Spur Lane
Kissimmee, FL 34744
Tel: 321-697-3333

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Gabriele Marewski is an Innovative Farmer.

Local organic farmer Gabriele Marewski was recognized with the Florida Innovative Farmer Award at the 2012 Small Farm and Alternative Enterprise Conference this summer. (She joins Eva and Chris Worden of Worden Farm, organic growers in Punta Gorda, who were given the same award in 2010.)

Gabriele owns and operates Paradise Farms Organic, which is known for the Dinner in Paradise fine dining series every winter/spring. A portion of the proceeds from each dinner series is donated to small local non-profits. This season, Urban Greenworks and Slow Food Miami will receive donations. (Events are the main way that the community can visit the farm, which is otherwise not open to the public.)

In addition to dinners, Sunday morning brunches and occasional farm tours, Paradise Farms has branched out to other ventures, and recently started offering a venue for “sustainable, organic weddings” on the farm. Several cabins are available for B&B overnight stays.

The farm is also venturing into the realm of value-added foods. “We have a large 3’x3’ 24 shelf dehydrator where we are making teas from our edible flowers,” Gabriele said. In addition,”We have received a Value Added Producer Grant from the USDA to dehydrate our oyster mushrooms into a delicious healthy snack for school vending machines.” (The mushroom snacks are still in the focus group tasting stage.) And of course, Gabriele has made a name for herself growing microgreens and edible flowers for high-end restaurants.

Paradise is innovative in that it’s not only an organic farm, but also strictly vegetarian. Meat and meat products are not allowed on the property, whether they be dinner ingredients or farm nutrients. Gabriele is determined to keep it that way. “Vegetarianism is the single most important act to save our planet as it take lots of resources to produce commercial meat and is the biggest single pollutant of our waterways.”

The Innovative Farmer Award is a joint venture by the University of Florida and Florida A&M University to assist the state’s small farms, which are defined as having sales of less than $250,00 a year, and represent more than 90 per cent of all farms in Florida.

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Florida Small Farms Conference


The University of Florida’s (UF) Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) and Florida A&M University’s (FAMU) Small Farms and AlternaTeam are pleased to announce that the third annual Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference  will be held in Kissimmee, Florida July 15 – 17, 2011.

Only in its 3rd year, the conference already attracts nearly 800 people. It provides farmers with in-depth, cutting edge educational information; facilitates networking, dialog, and visioning among members of the Florida small farms community, and increases awareness of the small farms industry to decision makers, supporting institutions, and the general public.

Who Should Attend

· Small Family Farms
· Transitional Farmers
· Beginning Farmers
· Allied-industry Reps.
· Educators
· Researchers
· Agricultural Associations
· Policy-makers
· Foundations
· Anyone interested in becoming a part of, and strengthening the small farm community in Florida

Additional Conference Highlights

In addition to the educational sessions and optional pre-conference activities, highlights include:
·    Featured Florida farmers
·    Livestock arena with live animal exhibits
·    Local foods
·    Large exhibition showcasing products and technologies

For more information and to register online
http://conference.ifas.ufl.edu/smallfarms/index

For specific questions, please contact Mandy Stage, conference coordinator, at mstage@ufl.edu

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Didn’t make  it to the 2010 Florida Small Farms Conference? Speaker presentations on Alternative Energy, Alternative Enterprises, Business and Marketing, Horticulture, Livestock, and Organic and Sustainable Farming have been posted as downloadable PDF’s on the conference web site.

Click here for the presentations page.

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Hello Redland Ramblers!


Mangos from Dr. Jonathan Crane at TREC, blueberries from Gail & Mike Waldron in Marion County.

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.

Omnivores loved the delicious Gilchrist Brand Sausage from Jonnie Thompson of Ocala, who emphasizes humane animal treatment.

The fabulous  selections from this year’s menu:

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.

Yummy Florida okra and blackeye peas from William Moore at Bluefield Organic Farm in Okeechobee.

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.

I am the handsomest rooster at the Small Farms Conference and I approve this message.

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.

We love the local, organic hay at the Small Farms Conference--mmm...

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…

Gratuitous cuteness.

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Greetings once again, Redland Ramblers! Guest blogger Melissa Contreras here again, founder of Urban Oasis Project, urban micro-farmer.  I’m back to tell you about day two of my trip to the Small Farms/Alternative Enterprises Conference last weekend.

After rising early, we all piled into Margie’s van and headed over to the Osceola Heritage Park for the official beginning of the conference. Since I know that all you local foodies want to know about the food, let me start with breakfast: rather light fare was provided at the conference, but like our full lunch, it consisted mostly of Florida farm-grown food. A deep dish frittata of free-range Florida eggs with cream from grass-fed cows was served, accompanied by Lambeth Groves’ orange juice, cold and fresh, a perfect blend of sweetness and acidity. We were treated to Florida’s “other juice,” Muscadine grape juice: crisp, lightly sweet, and perfumed of dewy-misted grapes, from Lakeridge Winery and Vineyard in the high country of Clermont. Certified organic blueberries from Gail and Mike Waldron of Bay Lake Blueberries in Marion County mingled with mangos from our own Dr. Jonathan Crane of TREC in Homestead.  Fair trade coffee was provided by Sweetwater Organic Coffee Company of Gainesville, which purchases from Rainforest Alliance-certified small farmers in the Tropics. For our coffee, we actually had the luxury of choosing milk from 2 small dairies, Dakin Dairy Farm of Myakka City, or Kurtz and Sons Dairy of Live Oak. Bubba and Leslie Kurtz run a “grass-fed dairy farmstead” of Jerseys and Shorthorns, and work to keep their milk as close to Nature as possible. This is not a business slogan for them, it is a way of life. After coffee finished with Nature’s perfect food, I was ready for a full day of conference and break-out sessions.

We all headed over to the big lunch room for the opening session. Welcomes came from kick-off speakers Dr. Joan Dusky of UF/IFAS in Gainesville and Dr. Ray Mobley of FAMU in Tallahassee, a co-sponsor of the event. FAMU and UF and are Florida’s 2 land grant universities, dating back to the ugly days of segregation, when black people went to one university and white people went to another. (Beside the obvious injustice of this, it begs another question- where did the original inhabitants of this land go? But that is another story.)

Next came the Florida Innovative Farmer Awards! These awards are given to farmers and ranchers who are leaders and innovators, based on the following criteria (quote):

  • Success in making farming systems more profitable over the long term.
  • Ability to use farming practices that enhance, rather than harm, natural resources.
  • Leading -or participating in-  activities that support viable communities, either through economic development or contribution to regional food systems.
  • Effective outreach and/or education about sustainable agriculture ideas and practices to others, such as producers, community leaders, agricultural educators, and the general public.

There were 3 winners of these awards, the first being Chris and Eva Worden of Worden Farm in Punta Gorda. They got up on the stage in front of their small farmer peers, and were given a well-deserved round of thunderous applause. Both are Ivy League educated, Yale and Cornell, but are very down-to-Earth and in love with their vocation and avocation, farming. Upon acceptance of the award, Chris said to the audience, “We love to grow crops.” They grow 50 different varieties, mostly vegetables, some fruit, and do it organically, using soil and water conservation techniques. They have a CSA, sell at farmers markets, have workshops at the farm, art programs, and “grow future farmers and gardeners.” They help community gardens, about which Eva knows a thing or two, having authored papers on the subject. She said “anyone who works with community gardens knows that it is easy to start one, harder to maintain them, so we stay with them, encourage and help them.” Eva explained that they “grow great crops, connect with the local community, and promote the viability of the family farm.”

(L-R) Christine Kelly-Begazo, Eva Worden, Chris Worden. The Wordens receiving the Florida Innovative Farmer Award, a happy achievement for the work they love!

I went to Worden Farm last year with Farmer Margie and the WWOOFers, and my folks from Urban Oasis Project. We had a tour of the farm, and got to see the amazing results Chris and Eva get from good stewardship of their 55 certified organic acres. Because they supply some of the food in Redland Organics CSA shares, I thanked them for feeding my family. By the way, have you thanked your farmer lately?

The second recipient of the awards was Trish Strawn of Deep Creek Ranch in Deland. Trish and her dad, David, work the family farm which has been around since 1883. Trish said they got into grass-fed beef because her dad had a health issue, but she said if you ask her dad, he’ll say it’s because they’re “cutting edge.” The room broke into laughter.Trish is Co-Leader of Slow Food Orlando, and a founding member of the Florida Food Policy Council. She is also a lot of fun to go out and have a beer and a lot of good laughs with, which we did later that night. Trish and her dad are the real deal. Joel Salatin must be proud.

The third award recipient was George Owens of Chipley, FL, who has a mixed cattle and timber/forestry operation, or silvopasture. George could not be present for the awards because his son had just come home for a short visit from Afghanistan. All were very happy for him. The award presenters said “we tend toward a monoculture system, so when we get someone who does integration, we want to encourage it.”  I am a believer in agroecology, and it is very encouraging to hear agricultural professionals talk about moving away from monocultures!

I was very excited to hear my friend Will Allen of Growing Power, Inc. give the keynote address. Unfortunately, Will had some knee surgery which made it impossible for him to travel to the conference, though that was the original plan. Technology to the rescue! The AV geeks got the satellite/internet hookup to Will Allen up and running, and we were able to see and hear him on 2 large screens, and he was able to see and hear us.

That's me with Will Allen at a Growing Power workshop last year. Will loves scooping Lake Perch out of his aquaponics tanks! He loved to fish when he lived in Miami too.

Larger than life on the big screen, Will spoke about the history of Growing Power, all the amazing past, present and future projects they have, and was enthusiastic and inspirational as always. Larger than life is a profound statement when referring to Will Allen, who stands tall at 6’7” and weighs 230 pounds. Will played basketball for the University of Miami in the 1970’s, and still wears an orange and green UM cap with his signature royal blue Growing Power sweatshirt with cut-off sleeves. His biceps are bigger than many supermodel’s waists, and he keeps them that way by working hard every day, growing food for Milwaukee’s inner city on 3 acres, 2 blocks from one of the country’s largest low-income housing projects, in what was an urban food desert until Will’s good food movement became a good food revolution. Will is not an armchair CEO. He gets his hands dirty. He loves farming like Chris and Eva Worden do. I think some of us are born agrarian. It is not a choice, it’s in our blood, and it’s who we are.

Will showed many slides of Growing Power in action: composting thousands of tons of Milwakee’s food and brewery waste and “growing soil” as he says; passing compost through the digestive tracts of thousands of worms, creating rich worm castings fertilizer; raising tilapia and lake perch in the bottom level of a 3-tiered, homemade aquaponics system, with watercress growing in the middle layer, and tomatoes on top; raising chickens and bees in the city; providing a safe after-school space for urban youth to learn green job skills; feeding senior citizens healthy food with a “food basket” CSA; providing a retail grocery space with their fresh salad greens, eggs, and so much more to the neighborhood in which Growing Power’s urban farm resides.

“If people can grow safe, healthy, affordable food, if they have access to land and clean water, this is transformative on every level in a community.  I believe we cannot have healthy communities without a healthy food system.”

Will is a major inspiration for what we do in Urban Oasis Project, doing our part to make good, clean, safe, healthy, and local food accessible to all. Access to real food should be a right of all citizens. Will says “we can’t wait around for government or others to do it, we have to do it, just start doing things.”

I could go on about Will Allen forever, but I’ll stop here. Please come back for Part Three, highlighting local food lunches and conference workshops!

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Hey there Redland Ramblers! This is guest blogger Melissa Contreras, founder of Urban Oasis Project. Last night, a group of Redland and Miami farmers and I returned home after a weekend at the 2nd Small Farms/Alternative Enterprises Conference in Kissimmee.  I have always been a farmer wannabe, and as such, I grow food for my family, my pet bunnies,  and a few friends on my 1/4 acre “urban homestead” in Kendall.  I was happy to learn at the conference that this small scale of growing is now being officially considered as part of our local food system, as it should be! The University of Florida/IFAS Extension isn’t just for big farmers and agribusiness, we little people count too!

Cast of characters on this road trip included Bee Heaven Farmer Margie, husband Nick, their new farm manager Jane;  Muriel of Little River Market Garden, Mario of Guara Ki Farm, and me.  Meeting up at Bee Heaven Farm, we shared a ride in Margie’s van, and took the scenic route around the shores of Lake Okeechobee on US 27. It was beautiful! Cows and egrets mingled in green pastures, Nick spotted a sandhill crane, and tri-color herons searched for underwater snacks near the water’s edge. Along the way, through what was once a river of grass, we saw fields of sugarcane (some organic), and picturesque views which reminded me that while South Florida is often thought of as a metropolitan built environment,  it still belongs to Mother Nature, though altered. Hopefully Everglades restoration will return the river of grass to its rightful owner.

After 4 hours on the road, we arrived  and checked into our hotel, the posh and sophisticated Super 8. Hey, we’re on a budget, OK?  I shared a suite with Margie, Nick, and Jane.  After repeated promises to Jane that I would not confuse her with my husband in the middle of the night, she decided to sleep on the couch.  But, I digress.  We had a nice lunch in restored historic downtown Kissimmee, an old cowboy town with a lovely lakefront, unique and colorful wooden homes with gingerbread mill work, unusual eateries and watering holes like ” The Wicked Stepsister,” a nice antique shop,  and so much more. Next time you’re in the neighborhood, take a break from the Orlando area tourist traps and visit this authentic town.

After lunch, we proceeded to the Osceola Heritage Center, site of the next day’s convention, for meetings of the Greater Everglades Foodshed Alliance, the Florida Food Policy Council, and a pre-conference pow-wow with Extension agents from all over Florida. The Greater Everglades Foodshed Alliance meeting was a recap of the Food Summit for interested parties.  The Florida Food Policy Council will “bring together stakeholders from diverse food-related sectors to examine how the food system is operating and to develop recommendations on how to improve it. FPCs may take many forms, but are typically either commissioned by state or local government, or predominately a grassroots effort. Food policy councils have been successful at educating officials and the public, shaping public policy, improving coordination between existing programs, and starting new programs.” (definition from foodsecurity.org). We are forming a soon-to-be Miami food policy council. (Contact Mario if you have a stake in our local food system and want to participate in this new effort.)

Those who attended the informal Friday meetings were also invited to sit in on the pre-conference event for UF/IFAS Extension agents, in which  Dr. Danielle Treadwell, Dr. Mickey Swisher, and Sarasota Extension’s new Director and doctoral candidate Evangeline “Van” Linkous  talked about our changing food system from their different points of view and varying expertise.  Dr. Treadwell champions UF research in organic and sustainable farming, and feels that “educating consumers is an important part of what we do.”  Dr. Swisher said she was surprised to discover the “30 mile problem” in which  “disadvantaged communities in Florida’s urban areas often live 30-40 miles from areas where fresh produce is grown.”  Van’s background is in planning and she was a member of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Council before coming back to Florida from Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. She feels that much urban zoning could be converted to mixed-use, which could mean urban farms and farm stands could be located within high-density urban populations, giving urbanites more access to local, fresh food. A kindred spirit! We are quite lucky to have these three women in Extension.

So, if you’re catching on to a theme here, the conference tagline was “Sustaining Small Farms…Strengthening Florida’s Communities.”  There was much excitement among attendees on that Friday before the conference, seeing our major research institutions catching onto interests of so many people in local food,  and food justice as a paradigm shift from our current system. Further illustrating this point is the choice of keynote speaker for the conference: my personal hero, Will Allen, founder of  Growing Power, Inc.

I will write more about Saturday of the conference in the next post:  keynote speaker Will Allen, the three Florida Innovative Farmer Award winners, conference workshops, amazing local foods lunch and more! Come back  for more, including pictures!

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