GAINESVILLE, Fla. — School gardens have been popping up like pea plants all over Florida, and students and teachers are eating up the benefits.
There are approximately 1,300 school gardens in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. These gardens provide numerous benefits to students and teachers, said Kohrine Counts, a dietetics intern and master’s student at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
A recent study by Counts and Karla Shelnutt, an associate professor in the department of family, youth and community sciences and UF/IFAS Extension nutrition specialist, shows that school gardens are an excellent way to get fresh produce into classrooms and cafeterias. And, they also provide students with a living classroom where concepts related to science, math, agriculture and nutrition can be learned and applied, Counts said.
“School gardens get children outside and offers an interactive learning environment,” Counts said. “It gives them a chance to see where their food comes from, and allows children to develop life skills such as leadership, self-awareness, decision making and responsibility.”
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FORT PIERCE, Fla. – Findings from new University of Florida research may lead growers to produce avocados in the Indian River region of Florida, an area where the citrus industry has fallen on hard times.
The research comes from a dissertation by Cristina Pisani, who recently completed her doctorate in horticultural sciences at the University of Florida Indian River Research and Education Center near Fort Pierce. The center is part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
For her research, Pisani studied a grove of about 150 avocado seedlings collected in California by Rey Schnell, a researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Subtropical Horticulture Research Station in Miami. Schnell identified the true hybrids of avocado Hass and Bacon cultivars. Then the seedlings were planted at the USDA Horticultural Research Laboratory, adjacent to the IRREC.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are trying to expand consumers’ knowledge of muscadine grapes, and they hope that awareness leads to more people buying them.
“They’re full of nutrients and flavor,” UF/IFAS food science professor Charles Sims said of the tick-skinned fruit.
Right now, muscadine grapes are grown only in the South and are not very well known in other parts of the country, Sims said. Apparently, more consumers are apt to buy muscadine grapes if they know about them, at least according to a recent UF/IFAS experiment.
For her master’s thesis, Mailys Fredericq, a graduate student in food science and human nutrition, studied 139 participants – 70 of whom considered themselves familiar with muscadine grapes, and 69 who were not. Fredericq found that those who knew about muscadine grapes like their appearance, flavor and texture much more than those who didn’t know much about the grapes.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Six University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty members, who are trying to solve global issues as wide-ranging as better alternative fuels and nutrient absorption, have been named as UF Research Foundation Professors for 2016-19.
The recognition goes to faculty who demonstrate a distinguished record of research and a strong research agenda that’s likely to continue to distinguish them in their fields.
“UF/IFAS faculty research continuously shows its value in practical ways, but these faculty members stand out because the University of Florida is recognizing their outstanding work,” said UF/IFAS Dean for Research Jackie Burns. “Their scientific research helps solve global issues ranging from potential solutions to citrus greening to growing crops in a changing climate to finding new sources of alternative energy.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s citrus growers say as much as 90 percent of their acreage and 80 percent of their trees are infected by the deadly greening disease, which is making a huge dent in the state’s $10.7 billion citrus industry, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences survey shows.
The survey, conducted in March 2015, shows the first grower-based estimates of both the level of citrus greening in Florida and the impact of greening on citrus operations in Florida.
“Even though the industry acknowledges that greening has reached epidemic proportions across the state, estimates of the level of infection and its impact on citrus operations are scarce,” the researchers wrote in the paper.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — More Florida inmates will have an opportunity to leave prison with real job skills and likely reduce their chances of being reincarcerated, thanks to a contract between the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Lloyd Singleton, an extension agent with UF/ IFAS Extension Sumter County, was recently awarded a $2.67 million contract to expand a vocational training program. Singleton leads a program to teach horticulture and culinary arts at the Federal Correctional Center in Coleman, Florida.
The five-year contract will help organizers expand a current program that offers horticulture training, Singleton said. He has headed the program for five years, which offered horticulture training to approximately 80 inmates a year. Now, the new contract will include culinary arts and will allow organizers to train more inmates.
“In the past five years, we have trained 415 inmates, 195 of whom have been released. Only seven of those released have been re-incarcerated,” Singleton said. “The recidivism rate of four percent is substantially lower than the national average, which shows that giving inmates training before they leave prison helps them to become productive citizens.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — People who buy their produce from farmers markets love the freshness and nutritional value of the product. Not only that, rural residents seek out such markets more than urban residents, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.
The latter finding surprised the researchers, led by Alan Hodges, an Extension scientist in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department.
“We interpret this effect as due to greater awareness of farming and farm-fresh foods in rural areas,” Hodges said. “The finding also suggests that rural households may be seeking out farmers’ markets as a travel destination rather than as part of a multi-stop shopping trip, as would often be the case with urban consumers. In addition, there is greater competition among food retailers in urban areas, simply due to the larger number of venues available.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — More than three quarters of Florida’s strawberries are shipped to American markets east of the Mississippi River. Most of those out-of-state consumers enjoy the fruit, but some mistakenly think Sunshine State strawberries aren’t available at their grocery stores, a new University of Florida study shows.
That means marketers and others must do a better job ensuring consumers know strawberries come from Florida, said Joy Rumble, an assistant professor of agricultural education and communication. This is particularly true in light of increased competition from California and Mexico, Rumble said. In Florida, the strawberry harvest brought in $267 million in 2013, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Rumble, a faculty member at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and a team of researchers from the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education conducted 10 focus groups in five cities east of the Mississippi River. The cities were Charlotte, North Carolina; Nashville, Tennessee; Columbus, Ohio; New York City and Boston.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Farmers or those who aspire to grow fruits and vegetables crops can attend the third UF/IFAS Regional Small Farms Conference on April 1-2 in Fort Myers, Florida.
The UF/IFAS Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Extension Team will host the conference at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Fort Myers, Florida.
This event provides an opportunity to share practical farming knowledge that can help growers across the region, said Jose Perez, small farms Extension coordinator for UF/IFAS. In addition, networking and activities with consumer stakeholders will promote local food systems in southwest Florida.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Plant Diagnostic Center will help shed light on potentially devastating plant diseases at the 4th National Meeting of the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN) in Washington, D.C.
Held every three to four years, this year’s conference will take place March 8 to 12 in the nation’s capital.
Among those representing UF will be Jason Smith, a UF/IFAS associate professor of forest pathology. Smith’s topic is titled, “Holy Guacamole: Insights into the Emerging Laurel Wilt Pandemic.”