IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS, Pinellas Sheriff’s office create urban farms in Pinellas County

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Vegetables

Loften Center students learning about gardening and nutrition on Thursday, May 21st, 2015.

GAINESVILLE, Fla.— Residents in a county on Florida’s Gulf Coast are getting the help they need to access healthier foods via a collaboration between the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and the Pinellas Sheriff’s Police Athletic League. The two entities have teamed up to create an urban farm in Pinellas County.

Urban farms promote an abundance of food for people in need while raising awareness of health and wellness. “It is an opportunity to teach families and children the values of nutrition and establish a level of commerce for produce distribution,” said Mark Trujillo, a public health regional specialist for UF/IFAS Family Nutrition Program.

Trujillo introduced the executive director of the Pinellas Sheriff’s PAL, Neil Brickfield, to an empty U-Pick farm in Lealman, Florida, Pinellas County. After discovering the potential that the farm had to help the county, Brickfield then began to work with UF/IFAS to identify the needs of the farm and community.

Because Lealman, Florida is considered a food desert, the idea of an urban farm was essential for the area, Trujillo said. According to Brickfield, the citizens in Lealman are more than a mile from a local grocery store. “So, the urban farm is an opportunity for people to have fresh produce readily available,” Brickfield said.

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UF/IFAS Extension Lee County to host Tropical Fruit Fair on June 25

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Vegetables
Persimmons. Photo taken 10-3-15

Persimmons

MYERS, Fla. — Julie Falconer, walked through the teeming aisles of the “Taste of Lee Tropical Fruit Fair” in Ft. Myers, Florida, and popped a piece of jackfruit in her mouth. She savored the sweet, pungent taste of the fruit usually found in south and Southeast Asia.

“Everyone in our family is a gardener, and I grew up on a farm in Michigan with tons of fruit trees,” said Falconer, who lives in St. James City, Florida. “Now, we are trying to learn what grows in Florida, because we love to eat fruit and want to grow our own tropical fruits.”

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Lee County office hosts the ninth annual “Taste of Lee Tropical Fruit Fair” on June 25 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The event will be held at Gate Ministries, 1735 Jackson Street, Fort Myers, 33901. Admission is $2; children under 12 are free.

The fair, a collaboration between UF/IFAS Extension Lee County and the Coloosa Rare Fruit Exchange, draws more than 3,000 visitors each year. Young and old taste everything from mangoes to gooseberries to jack fruit.

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UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program celebrates 20 years of serving Floridians

Topic(s): Agriculture, Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, Vegetables

A family having a picnic for the Healthy eating calendar and IFAS branding images.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — At first, Sheila Bryant was skeptical about the cooking class offered by the University of Florida’s UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program. The program was started 20 years ago to help low-income families make better food choices to prevent chronic diseases.

Bryant, who attended the “Cooking that Matters” class in Gainesville, Florida, believed that decades of eating her own cooking was probably good enough. But she walked away a convert to healthier eating.

“Oh my, I learned so much: how to cut down on fat, incorporate more vegetables and lean meats in my meals, and how to make better choices,” Bryant said. “Now, instead of ordering Chinese food, I make my own stir-fry and invite my neighbors and friends over for a feast. I’ve spread the gospel of the Family Nutrition Program to anyone I meet.”

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Water-wise awards honor landscaping that saves water without sparing looks

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, Florida Friendly, Green Living, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden

Winners of the Water-Wise Awards receive a garden stepping stone created by a local artist

Please see caption below story.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Most people who look at Scott and Lisa Freeman’s yard probably assume it takes a lot of water to keep it so green and lush. They couldn’t be more wrong — this sub-tropical oasis requires nearly no water at all, thanks to its Florida-Friendly Landscaping.

The Freeman’s yard won the 2015 Water-Wise Award for single-family residence in Pinellas County. This annual award is co-sponsored by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and Tampa Bay Water.

This award goes to landscapes in the Tampa Bay area that use little water but are pleasing to the eye. UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County staff will spend this coming summer visiting these landscapes to judge their water-wise design.

“The purpose of this program is primarily to promote water conservation and Florida-Friendly Landscaping principles,” said Brian Niemann, a UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County agent and one of the landscape judges.

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Want to conserve more water? Target those who already save a little

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Research

In this photo released from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, extension agent Janet Bargar checks the water flow and direction of a pop-up irrigation system at a home in Vero Beach – Friday, May 25, 2007. Bargar, a water quality expert, suggests residents check with their county extension office about local watering restrictions. She says the ideal time to water is before sunrise and that residents should check irrigation systems regularly to be sure they’re working properly and not watering the sidewalk.

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers call them “water considerate” consumers because they conserve water fairly well but could stand some improvement. These water users might be the most appropriate people to target if you want to get more people to conserve water, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

Laura Warner, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication and the leader of the newly published study, worked with a team of UF/IFAS researchers to conduct an online survey of 1,063 Floridians.

“The key takeaway is that there is a group of people who really care about water but have room for improvement in their landscape water conservation practices,” Warner said.

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Plants labeled as ‘pollinator friendly’ attract consumers, UF/IFAS study finds

Topic(s): Agriculture, Economics, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, RECs, Research

Flowers and insects at the student gardens on the University of Florida campus. Butterfly. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

APOPKA, Fla. — If you’re browsing plants in a nursery or home-improvement store, labels such as “pollinator friendly” will likely influence which plants you end up buying, according to a recent study by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

Postdoctoral research associate Alicia Rihn and assistant professor Hayk Khachatryan co-authored the study, which appears in the journal HortScience. Both Rihn and Khachatryan are researchers in the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education center in Apopka, Florida.

Rihn and Khachatryan wanted to know how labels such as “pollinator friendly” would influence consumer attitudes. “We wondered, which pollinator insect related labels are the most effective and which do consumers prefer?” Khachatryan said. “At the time of our study, these topics had not been addressed.”

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UF/IFAS event unveils latest turfgrass research

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Research

Urban development in Florida - coupled with the growth of the nation's largest golf course industry - is driving the huge demand for turfgrass.

JAY, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty will showcase the latest turfgrass research June 15 at the twenty-second annual UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Turfgrass Field Day and Expo.

The UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center will host the field day and expo, which is co-sponsored by the Gulf Coast Golf Course Superintendents Association, said J. Bryan Unruh, professor of environmental horticulture and associate center director of UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center.

Green industry representatives, UF/IFAS Master Gardeners and anyone interested in turfgrass are invited. In past years, the field day and expo has drawn around 300 people from Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, Unruh said.

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UF/IFAS Bug Week focuses on “Big Money Bugs” that generate economic damages, benefits

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Citrus, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers, Household Pests, IFAS, Invasive Species, Lawn & Garden, Pests
The invasive Asian citrus psyllid.

The invasive Asian citrus psyllid. UF/IFAS photo by Michael Rogers. Click for high-red image.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Call them Florida’s “Big Money Bugs” – the insects responsible for the greatest economic damages, costs and benefits that arthropods generate in the Sunshine State.

This year, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) focuses on Big Money Bugs for its annual Bug Week, May 21 to 27. The event offers educational outreach for the public while showcasing UF/IFAS’ entomology and nematology program, one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive.

Visit the Bug Week website at http://bugs.ufl.edu for more information, including profiles on six of the state’s most economically significant arthropods. Among these species are the destructive Asian citrus psyllid and Formosan subterranean termite, topics of great concern, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“In recent years, pest insects have had enormous negative impacts on our state,” Payne said. “Bug Week is the perfect opportunity for UF/IFAS to raise awareness about the challenges these pests bring about, in terms of lost agricultural and natural resources production, management costs, and even human and veterinary healthcare issues, in some instances.”

Species profiled on the Bug Week website include:

*The Asian citrus psyllid, which cost the state’s citrus industry $7.8 billion in total economic contributions from crop losses during the 2006-07 through 2012-13 growing seasons;

*The Formosan subterranean termite, the most destructive widespread termite species in Florida;

*Invasive yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes, which are known to transmit viral diseases in Florida and believed to transmit Zika virus in other countries;

*Beneficial honeybees, which help make Florida the nation’s third-largest honey producer as well as a top source of rental honey bee colonies used to pollinate crops. (more …)

UF/IFAS Extension Broward County program prevents tree abuse through education

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A volunteer of the Duval County Tree Stewards trims a tree limb at a park near Jacksonville, Florida.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Have you ever had a tree trimmed back to bare bones because you thought you were getting your money’s worth? You may be guilty of tree abuse, says a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension agent.

For the last 16 years, the UF/IFAS Extension Broward County Tree Trimmer Program has been teaching tree trimmers and arborists in South Florida how to avoid tree abuse with best pruning practices. Broward County requires tree trimming businesses to be certified and licensed, and the Extension program provides the certification training. Since its start in 2001, the program has issued between 10,000 and 11,000 certifications.

UF/IFAS Extension Broward County agent Michael Orfanedes developed and now oversees the training program. Orfanedes said that when it comes to pruning trees, “Some customers think that the more that gets removed, the better the job.” However, certain pruning practices are considered tree abuse because they can make trees vulnerable to decay and instability. “When trees decline and fall apart, there can be liability and loss of property,” Orfanedes said.

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UF/IFAS researchers: Florida sees dramatic increase in school gardens

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Nutrition, Vegetables

4H counselor gardening with children.

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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