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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

'Eat Here Now' at the 2010 Florida Small Farm Conference

Everyone who attended the 2009 Florida Small Farm Conference fondly remembers the delicious breakfast and lunch meals of locally-grown foods that were served. These meals featured produce, fruit, dairy and meats from across Florida that provided the freshest and most nutritious foods available. They were then transformed into the fantastic meals by the creative culinary skills of chef Tony Donelly and his skilled staff of Savor Food Service Company at the Osceola Heritage Park.

The challenge at this year's Conference is to continue, if not to exceed, the expectations of this high standard for the meals. I am glad to report that this challenge is being met head-on by the Food Committee and the culinary staff. As a preview of our success in bringing you foods from Florida small farms to your Conference table, I am sharing with you the menu for your Sunday lunch:

Regular Lunch
Garden Fresh Salad Bar w/all the Fixing’s
Fresh Country Smoked Sausage with all the Fixing’s

Fresh Roast Pastured Chicken with a Mango Peppercorn Demi-Glace

Sturgeon Bites
Sautéed Collard Greens with Pastured Pork and a Spicy Garlic Sauce

Summer Squash Provencal
Roasted Florida Table Potatoes w/ Fresh Rosemary
Blueberry Compete with Minted Crème Fraiche

Vegan Lunch
Garden Fresh Salad Bar w/ all the Fixing’s
Wild Brown Rice with Tomato Basil Quinoa

Buckwheat Crepes with Wild Mushroom Ragout topped with Herbed Croutons

Sweet Potato Planks with a Cinnamon Glaze
Florida Succotash with Black eyed Peas, Tomato, Okra, Corn and Fresh Mango

Spicy Collard Greens with a Chili Vinegar Sauce
Florida Blue Berry Compote with Fresh Mint and Lady Finger Cookies

So, we hope that you are smacking your lips in anticipation to enjoying such a meal. Our goal is nothing less than demonstrating to you just how enjoyable it is to 'Eat Here Now' . . .

Monday, July 19, 2010

Florida Small Farmers Receive A Little Help From Their Friends

Florida small farmers are receiving a lot of a 'little help from their friends' to come to the 2010 Florida Small Farm Conference. This assistance has come in the form of scholarships that are assisting in the expenses to attend both days on July 31 and August 1, 2010.

For example, here are the descriptions of the sources of these scholarships:

1) Donations received during registration to the Conference by attendees have been received and have totaled enough to fund 15 scholarships!

2) The Florida Association of Community Farmers Markets has sponsored 8 scholarships through their organization. The Florida Association of Community Farmers Markets, Inc. (FACFM) is a member-driven organization whose purpose is to improve the link between farm and table by supporting farmers and educating consumers on the benefits of buying local and supporting their community farmers' markets. For more information about FACFM see their website at

3) The following chapters of Slow Food USA have sponsored scholarships for their local farmers. Slow Food is an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment. For more information about Slow Food see their website at

a) Slow Food Orlando has provided 6 scholarships through their organization. For their info see their website at

b) Slow Food Miami has provided 2 scholarships through their organization. For their info see their website at

c) Slow Food Gold & Treasure Coast has awarded 2 scholarships. For their info see their website at

d) Slow Food First Coast has awarded 1 scholarship. For their info see their website at

e) Slow Food Greater Sarasota has awarded 2 scholarships. For their info see their website at

f) Slow Food Glades to Coast has awarded 3 scholarships. For their info see their website at

4) The Suncoast Food Alliance has awarded 2 scholarships. For their info see their website at

With such actions, it's clear to see that the small farmers of Florida do indeed have a growing community of supporters who are demonstrating their commitment to them. So when you come to the 2010 FL Small Farm Conferenc be sure to introduce yourself to the small farmers in attendance and tell them just how much you appreciate their hard work to bring local foodsl to your tables.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Florida Small Farmers On The Road Again To Kissimmee

Yes, there are only 12 days until the beginning of the 2010 Florida Small Farm Conference! The final preparations are being made by everyone as they get ready to take the road to Kissimmee. Yes, that means everyone, the organizers, the presenters, the exhibiters, and, most importantly, the small farm community of Florida. The increasing excitement is palpable. Yes, we are all coming back together soon to recreate the magic of last year's inaugural Florida Small Farm Conference.

To this end, this blog wants to invite everyone to share their comments in these '12 days before Conference'. Let's hear from everyone about their expectations, resources, and perspectives that they are bringing to the Conference. I hear the buzz about the Conference starting across the state of Florida, do you?

So, for starters, we want to make sure that everyone is aware of the events available to the Conference attendees even before the Conference officially begins. Yes, on Friday, July 30th there are 3 networking meetings that are open and free to the public. Here is the information about these activities which are all happening at the same time and place for your ease of participation and choice:

Date/Time: Friday, July 30, 2010; 3:00 - 6:00 pm

Location: Exhibition Building, Osceoloa Heritage Park (i.e., the Conference location)- room assignments for each meeting will be posted

Meetings Descriptions:

1) Florida Association of Community Farmers Markets (FACFM) - come learn and contribute to the efforts of the FACFM which is a member-driven organization whose purpose is to improve the link between farm and table by supporting farmers and educating consumers on the benefits of buying local and supporting their community farmers' markets. For more info about the FACFM see their URL at

2) Florida Organic Growers & Consumers, Inc. (FOG) - come learn and contribute to the efforts of FOG which supports and promotes organic and sustainable agriculture, wherein; we educate consumers, farmers, future farmers (children & youth), businesses, policy makers and the general public. For more info about the FOG see their URL at

3) Florida Food Policy Council (FFPC) and the Greater Everglades Foodshed Alliance (GEFA)- come to this joint meeting and learn and contribute to the efforts of these 2organizations that are promoting sustainable foodshed development in Florida.

a) The FFPC was initiated last year at a special meeting with the attendees of the
2009 FL Small Farm Conference. The mission of FFPC is to encourage the
development and expansion of the capacity of local food systems (foodsheds) to
meet food security needs in communities across Florida through advocacy, network-
building, training and providing tools designed to increase production,
distribution and consumption of healthy, local foods for the planet, ecosystems
and people.

b) The GEFA has a mission to inspire people, ventures, projects and activities
dedicated to ecological learning and sustainability in the Greater Everglades
bioregion, is partnering with stakeholders representing all aspects of the local
food system. Together, we are in the process of forming the Greater Everglades
Foodshed Alliance, as an essential first step in rebuilding a local food system
in South Florida that benefits all residents and the ecosystems on which we
depend. By forming a network that strengthens existing relationships between
growers, processors, distributors, buyers, retailers, and consumers, we can
create the resilient, just, and sustainable local food system we want for the
Greater Everglades. For more info on the GEFA see their URL at http://earth-

So there you have it. As you can see, these pre-conference activities are definitely setting the tone for a most meaningful and educational time when everyone gathers for the 2010 FL Small Farm Conference. Keep them in mind as you get ready to take the road again to Kissimmee . . .

Monday, July 12, 2010

Learning and Networking Small Farmer to Small Farmer Style

Today, July 12th, as everyone knows, is the deadline for the 'early bird discount' registration. We certainly hope that everyone is or has taken advantage of our efforts to keep the costs very reasonable for everyone.

Of course, a primary reason for keeping the conference costs down is to provide access for small farmers to meet and learn from each other. There's no better demonstration of this fact then the list of excellent farmer speakers that are participating in our sessions. To this end, I want to begin to give you some short biosketches of the small farmers that you can personally get to hear and know. Their names can be found on the new link of 'Session Speakers' on the conference website.

Alternative Energy Track
Saturday 4:30 – 6:00: Combined Heat and Power Options for the Small Farm
a) Wayne Keith, from Springville AL is an “off the grid” cattlemen, and builder and designer of a truck (dodge Dakota) that runs on wood gas which is a world war II technology developed in Scandinavia that ran public transportation and provided power for farming during the last several years of the war. (he is bringing the truck).

Alternative Enterprise Track
Sunday 11:00 – 12:30: Aquaponics and Aquaculture
a) Jorge Pang is a marine biologist who is a former project manager at the Ocean Boy Company which produced shrimp on inland ponds near Clewiston, Florida. Jorge later worked on a tilapia project on Pine Island, producing more than 500 pounds of tilapia per week for niche markets in Northern US States. Jorge is the current project development manager for a sizeable aquaponics farm in South Punta Gorda, which has begun to produce fish, vegetables and orchids in a closed production system.

Business and Marketing Track
Sunday 11:00 – 12:30: What’s All the Excitement About Social Marketing? – How It Can Help You Market Your Product/Service
a) Brain Lapinski and his wife, Kristin, started Down to Earth farm on 2.5 acres in Jacksonville Florida in late 2007. They serve a 20-member CSA and two Saturday markets with sustainably grown veggies and cut flowers. Their main marketing tool is a weekly email to their list of about 900 folks.

Horticulture Track
Saturday 4:30 – 6:00: Exploring Hydroponic Growing Systems
a) Emil Belibasis is hydroponic greenhouse grower originally from Honduras. In 1989 he began in a single-bay (one-tenth of an acre) greenhouse. A year and a half later, he purchased his current 15-acre farm in Wellborn, FL, where he grows tomatoes on the vine and Middle Eastern cucumbers inside 5 acres of greenhouse area.
Through the years, Belibasis has maintained a close relationship with UF/IFAS and utilized NFREC-SV and county agents to start his operation. Emil is a great example of the type of grower that willingly gives of himself to help others. He has hosted countless tours of his farm to help area County Extension agents, he never says no. In addition to the tours, he has provided product for many grad student projects, guest lecturer in Dr. Cantliffe’s classes, gone to Tallahassee and Washington DC to testify on the hill for UF/IFAS budgets, presented and hosted FDA and USDA officials at the recent statewide food safety listening session and tour, serves on local Extension advisory committees, and he still finds a way to make significant financial contributions to support Extension programs every year. He is just that kind of friend/cooperator that makes County Extension work worth it all.

So come to the conference and learn from fellow small farmers who understand your world as a producer and who want you to succeed too!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Get Profitable With Diversified Small Farming & Alternative Enterprises

With today's economy, it has become commonplace for farmers to inquire about alternative enterprises to either diversify or replace existing farm operations. Farmers are looking to these alternative enterprises that make use of existing resources to generate additional income and provide sustainability to their operations.

Florida has many opportunities that can mean profitable small farming for agricultural entrepreneurs. For example, many farms are in close proximity to metropolitan areas that offer a vast and diverse marketing opportunity for farm products, in addition to recreation and agri-tourism businesses. Urban residents have a rapidly growing demand for high quality locally grown products. The farmers markets boom over the past five years in an indication of this opportunity. An increasing amount of producers have already adopted innovative alternative enterprises that have capitalized on these markets. However, there are many farmers who have yet to develop new or alternative enterprises, and the task of choosing these opportunities can be overwhelming for several reasons.

These alternative enterprises come in an unlimited number of shapes and sizes. However, a producer trying to identify potential profitable enterprises can easily find themselves overwhelmed. The process is also compounded by the fact that these types of enterprises typically have little data on production practices, input costs and revenue. When information is available, it may not be comparable across enterprises because it was developed in a different geographical area or with different assumption.

In addressing these challenges, we are proud to present the 2010 Small Farms & Alternatives Enterprises Conference with the theme of "Sustaining Small Farms; Strengthening Florida's Communities". This Conference is set for July 31st- Aug 1st 2010, and an Alternative Enterprise session has been scheduled to present topics on the Aquaculture and Aquaponics, Minor Fruit Crops, and Agri-Tourism. If you would like more information on this session or additional sessions please visit the conference Web site link at

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Will Allen's Road to Florida Update #1

"GROW! BLOOM! THRIVE!" is the credo of our keynote speaker, Will Allen. Prior to his appearence at the 2010 FL Small Farm Conference, he is busily teaching communities across America the meaning of these words. For example, on June 4th Will Allen lectured at the Nsoroma Institute in Detroit, MI, and on June 5th & 6th he conducted workshops on vermicomposting and hoophouses for Detroit's Black Food Security Network.

Will Allen also maintains a busy schedule of teaching these words at his Growing Power Center in Milwakee, WI. For example, go to the website of a video on his efforts for nothing less than a FOOD REVOLUTION across America - see

While we all await Will Allen's appearance here to share the full significance of this credo to Florida's small farm and local foods community, here's the excerpt from the 2010 Time 100 magazine article of why Will Allen was voted one of he 100 most influential people affecting our world:

"At one time, the term urban farm sounded like an oxymoron. No longer.

A new movement is sprouting up in America's low-income neighborhoods. Some urban residents, sick of fast food and the scarcity of grocery stores, have decided to grow good food for themselves.

One of the movement's (literally) towering icons is Will Allen, 62, of Milwaukee's Growing Power Inc. His main 2-acre Community Food Center is no larger than a small supermarket. But it houses 20,000 plants and vegetables, thousands of fish, plus chickens, goats, ducks, rabbits and bees.

People come from around the world to marvel — and to learn. Says Allen: "Everybody, regardless of their economic means, should have access to the same healthy, safe, affordable food that is grown naturally."

The movement's aim is not just healthier people but a healthier planet. Food grown in cities is trucked shorter distances. Translation: more greenhouses in the 'hood equals less greenhouse gas in the air.

Just as important, farm projects grow communities and nourish hope. The best ones will produce more leaders like Allen, with his credo "Grow. Bloom. Thrive."

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Livestock on Green Pastures Bring In Plenty of Greenbacks for Small Farmers

The growing market for local, pasture-raised meats is an exciting and profitable trend for small farmers in Florida. Want to get in on this action but don't know where to begin? Then you definitely need to come to the July 31-Aug 1 Florida Small Farms and Alternatives Conference.

The information offered at the Conference applies to long-time livestock producers and farmers who are looking to livestock for diversification and improved sustainability. Learn how to properly manage your pastures for optimum herd health, minimal weeds and robust beef, poultry, goats and sheep.

Come meet produers who have the experience and knowledge to tell you how it's done. For example, Brantley Ivey of River Ridge Land and Cattle Company, in Grayson
County, Virginia, will be a speaker at the session called "Grass-Fed Beef: How Do We Get There/". Brantley is the current farm manager and is managing grass-fed beef as an enterprise to achieve the vision of a sustainable agricultural enterprise that is creating profit centers to sustain the family farm and rural community.

Come meet experts who will share technical information about stocking rates, fertilization and rotational grazing to increase productivity. For example, Yoanna Newman of the UF/IFAS Soils & Water Department will share information on appropriate legume species for the use of a mixed legume-grass pasture as a sustainable and economical practice. In another session you’ll learn how to maintain a healthy and productive pasture by preventing and controlling weeds including common invasive, noxious and poisonous weeds.

Then, come to sessions on the other livestock – Poultry, and Small Ruminants. For example, you will hear Elena Tora and Brad Burbaugh, UF/IFAS Extension Agents and the recipients of the 2010 NACAA Search for Excellence Award in Young, Beginning, or Small Farmers/Ranchers. They will show you how small scale poultry production for eggs and meat is profitable but there's a lot more to it than just turning chickens out to pasture.

Finally, come meet the animals themselves and their owners who are successfully raising them on small farms in Florida. Yes, there will be live animal exhibits on both Saturday and Sunday from 11:00am-12:20pm and 2:30-4:00pm. The animals include milking and meat goats, cattle, alpacas, and poultry.

With livestock ownership comes responsibility too, such as ethical responsibility, ensuring compliance with applicable laws and regulations, and the responsibility of being a good neighbor. To keep you up-to-date, you can learn about the Florida Fence Law, Green Belt and Right to Farm laws, and liability issues associated with the ownership of livestock. You’ll also discover solutions to common disagreements with neighbors and regulators.

Remember registration includes two full days of educational programs including the opening address with the Keynote Speaker, Will Allen of Growing Power. It also includes networking opportunities with the conference exhibitors, early Saturday and Sunday morning refreshments, Saturday and Sunday lunches featuring products from Florida’s small farms, and all refreshment breaks.

Save $50 by registering by July 12, 2010. See ya' there . . .