University of Florida

UF research facility to donate fresh produce to needy families during Farm to City Week

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

2015 Cares dinner and farmer recognition at the North Florida Research and Education Center at Live Oak, Florida on Thursday, November 7th.

JAY, Fla. –The University of Florida’s West Florida Research and Education Center will join forces with the Bay Area Food Bank, Waterfront Rescue Mission and the Guy Thompson Community Center to feed 700 local families during National Farm to City Week, Nov. 20 to 26.

Farm to City Week is a national effort to increase the public’s knowledge and appreciation for agriculture. The week of Thanksgiving, meals will be distributed to 400 needy families in Santa Rosa County and 300 families in Escambia County.

“This food will provide these families with a healthy meal this Thanksgiving holiday,” said Wes Wood, center director of the UF/IFAS West Florida REC. “We want to feed these families and teach folks in our community about the economic, environmental and societal benefits of agriculture.”

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UF/IFAS and a Sumter County church are helping locals dig in the dirt

Topic(s): Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Nutrition, Vegetables
More than 40 gardeners currently have plots in the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and United Church of Christ’s Community Garden.

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OXFORD, Fla. — Maureen McCoy has always gardened and enjoys knowing where her food comes from and exactly what is used to grow it. And that’s why she signed up for a plot in the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and United Church of Christ’s Community Garden.

“There are no words for the peace of watering your garden and gathering the bounty you have grown,” said McCoy.

More than 40 gardeners currently have plots in the church’s raised-beds on four acres of land that was once a pasture.  It cost UF/IFAS and the church about $5,000 to build the beds out of pressure-treated 2x6s and 4x4s and install irrigation from the church’s well.  Mulch for pathways was donated by Sumter County.  In addition, leftover soil was donated by Speedling in Bushnell. (more …)

UF/IFAS, Bok Tower Gardens program continues to grow

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Extension, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables
Caleb Gutierrez, Felipe Garcia, Kyra Pfingston, Alan Soule hold peppers they grew with Roosevelt Academy's agricultural program.

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LAKE WALES, Fla. — At Roosevelt Academy, horticulture teacher Ray Cruze’s class is growing enough vegetables to sell to local restaurants and at a local market, in part thanks to a partnership between Bok Tower Gardens and the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The partnership between the state’s preeminent land-grant university and the historic garden officially launched in January, and now schools are busy planting vegetables after receiving grants, and residents are learning how to organize their own community gardens. (more …)

Ft. Pierce Farmer’s Market named one of the best in the country

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Vegetables
Ft. Pierce Farmer’s Market named one of the best in the country. UF/IFAS

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FT. PIERCE, Fla. — Nearly 20 years ago, University of Florida Extension Agent and Master Gardener Anita Neal dreamed of a farmer’s market in downtown Ft. Pierce, overlooking the Indian River. She envisioned a place where residents could buy locally grown fruits and vegetables and talk with experts from UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

That market recently was named one of the five best in the nation by American Farmland Trust’s Farmers’ Market Celebration. (more …)

UF/IFAS researcher finds way to cut cost, save water and help the environment by changing one simple thing

Topic(s): Agriculture, Environment, IFAS, RECs, Vegetables
University of Florida Professor Sanjay Shukla has developed a "compact bed geometry" that cuts water, fertilizer and pesticide use in half.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sanjay Shukla looked out over row upon row of tomato and pepper plants and had an idea: What would happen if he made the compacted soil rows taller and more narrow?  Would the plants need less water, fertilizer and fumigation?  Would the plants grow as tall?  Would the plants produce as many vegetables? (more …)

UF/IFAS researchers use pigs to root out problem weeds

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, Green Living, IFAS, Livestock, Research, Vegetables
Professor of Agronomy and Weed Science Greg MacDonald with his pigs.

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CITRA, Fla. — Sometimes, the old-fashioned ways are the best ways.

Back before chemical pesticides and herbicides, farmers had to come up with ways to kill the weeds that took over their fields. One method used “back in the day” was letting pigs loose in fields that were not being used for crops for a season and allowing the pigs to do what they do naturally: dig up the roots of weeds and  fertilize the land.

In the last year, Greg MacDonald, a weed science researcher with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, decided to give the method a try to combat nutsedge, a weed that looks like grass and is so resilient it can sprout up through plastic row-crop coverings and even the plastic lining of above-ground pools. (more …)

Master Gardeners’ continued training conference scheduled for Kissimmee in October

Topic(s): Extension, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables
Master Gardeners teaching and working with youth in a garden.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Has your green thumb reached the master level?  The University of Florida’s 34th Florida Master Gardener Conference for continued training is scheduled for Oct. 18-21 at Kissimmee’s Embassy Suites at Lake Buena Vista South. Organizers are encouraging all active Florida Master Gardeners to sign up for early registration. (more …)

UF/IFAS Lawn and Garden Fest slated for Saturday, March 14

Topic(s): Agriculture, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables

Landscaping, ornamentals, gardening.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Just in time for spring’s arrival, Lawn and Garden Fest returns to the University of Florida campus on Saturday, March 14, to offer residents free advice and information to help them beautify their yards.

It takes place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Extension Soil Testing Laboratory on the corner of Mowry Road and Hull Road, in the southwest quadrant of the UF campus. The public is invited to the event, which will take place rain or shine, and is presented by the Soil and Water Science Department, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or UF/IFAS.

Faculty members from several UF/IFAS departments will be available for consultations at information booths set up under a large tent, said organizer George Hochmuth, a soil and water science professor.

“No matter what questions or problems you may have with your plants, soils or lawn, our experts can help,” Hochmuth said. “Even if you’re happy with the state of your yard, you can probably learn a thing or two just by attending.”

Topics covered at the event will include landscape design, plant variety selection for Florida conditions, establishing new plants, soil chemistry, plant nutrition, fertilization, irrigation, plant diseases, insect and nematode pests, fruit and vegetable gardening, organic production and keeping your lawn in tip-top condition.

The event also offers door prizes and tours of several facilities, and visitors are invited to bring samples of sick or pest-infested plants for diagnosis. Visitors may also bring one soil sample for free pH testing, a procedure that determines the degree of acidity or alkalinity in the soil.

Soil pH testing has been one of the event’s most popular features in previous years, said lead organizer Rao Mylavarapu, director of the Extension Soil Testing Laboratory and a soil and water science professor.

“Soil pH is a very important factor in plant health, and it’s often overlooked by homeowners,” Mylavarapu said. “The pH can vary from one part of your yard to another, and the pH needs of ornamental plants vary from one species to another. You want to make sure you have the right plant in the right place.”

Instructions for collecting the soil sample are posted on the Lawn and Garden Fest Facebook page, http://on.fb.me/1ajNDbB. Tests can be completed for visitors while they wait, but those who plan to stay on-site only a short time can receive results by e-mail. Faculty experts can also explain how to correct pH problems.

For those interested in learning more about pH testing and other chemical analyses, the Extension Soil Testing Laboratory will offer guided tours approximately every 20 minutes. The nearby UF Plant Diagnostic Center will offer tours on the hour, and visitors can also drive to the Natural Area Teaching Laboratory for walking tours of UF’s largest on-campus tract of wildland.

All visitors will be eligible for door-prize drawings, which will happen every 30 minutes, Hochmuth said. Winners will receive everything from free full-range soil chemistry testing to merchandise from the UF/IFAS Extension book store.

Representatives of the book store will be on hand throughout the event with a selection of books, DVDs, identification aids and other items available for sale. Complimentary refreshments will be available as well.

“This is our fourth year and we believe this will be the biggest and best Lawn and Garden Fest yet,” Hochmuth said. “Come on out and get yourself ready to spruce up your yard this spring!”

By Tom Nordlie, 352-273-3567, tnordlie@ufl.edu

Sources: Rao Mylavarapu, 352-294-3113, raom@ufl.edu

George Hochmuth, 352-294-3114, hoch@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

UF/IFAS helping those in need eat healthy for the New Year

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

Fresh vegetables at the farmers market.

SARASOTA, Fla. — Karen Maxey, 69, grew up on a farm eating fresh fruits and vegetables and maintained that healthy diet throughout her life.  But in 2007, the economy took a toll on her personal and professional life; she lost her real estate business and her home, and then her marriage collapsed.  She went back to school and graduated with a business degree at age 65, only to find her job search was in vain.

And so, though no fault of her own, she wound up a recipient of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – known as SNAP – which supplies her with $64 a month for food.

“So many seniors are really suffering,” said Maxey, who was thrilled when she found out that at some Florida farmer’s markets, her benefits could be doubled, up to $20, to enable her eat healthy, Florida-grown foods under a program called Fresh Access Bucks.  Some markets even double that per shopper, per market day, allowing SNAP recipients to purchase $40 worth of fresh fruits and vegetables grown locally. (more …)

UF/IFAS Extension and Bok Tower Gardens are partnering to teach a new generation about plants, gardening and the environment

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

Bok Tower

LAKE WALES, Fla. — Among the music of carillon bells, beneath a lush oak canopy, a new partnership is emerging between the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and historic Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, FL.

The partnership between the state’s preeminent land-grant university and this historic garden will provide onsite demonstration gardens, education programs and conservation research, as well as outreach programs to help people better see, appreciate, and connect with plants. A new school and community gardens program has already begun operations to teach food gardening to students and residents. (more …)

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