Friday, October 16, 2015

Florida Local Food Summit 2015

I enjoyed the inspirational gathering of foodies, from farmers & chefs to educators & support groups, in Gainesville on September 19th. There was a lot of great networking going on and this event was structured to encourage these connections. What fun to be part of this.

The weather in Gainesville was glorious, which made the day more enjoyable since much of it took place in a covered pavilion at the end of the agriculture extension building.Next to the pavilion, edible plants were for sale in the parking lot: from tomatoes to blueberries.

The food was fantastic!

The caterer was excellent. The menu included only local foods.

Getting started...

Getting started in the morning.
After a lovely breakfast of scrambled eggs, grilled vegetables, freshly baked biscuits, and local juice, the first item on the agenda was a panel of 10 or 12 people from all over the state who are involved in some type of activity that fosters more fresh, local food availability in their communities.
Mary Hathaway, FOG (Florida Organic Growers). Young farmers talked about working with restaurants.

Some of the panelists talked about bringing farmers markets to under-served neighborhoods. some panelist talked about training opportunities to get more people involved in running small farm operations such as CSAs.

Group session: working together across the state

People sat at tables marked with regions of the state and networked with each other. 
Pads of yellow and blue post-it notes were placed on each table so people could write a product or service that they provided or knew about. All the notes were stuck to the large state map at the front of the room. The synergy of this session was amazing.
People posting their services & resources on the map. Notes on services & resources by area on the map.
Compiling ALL the information, which will then be distributed for all to use.

Afternoon sessions:

The class on Intro to Organic Gardening and Farming. Rick Martinez (in the blue shirt) was the co-presenter. Workshop on farmers markets
I talked about organic gardening, especially attracting pollinators, and covered the topic of transitioning out of your own yard with ideas for gardening for others and participating in farmers markets. Rick Martinez, a farm inspector, talked about the difference between gardening and farming. He said he'd seen people who were gardening on 3 or 4 acres but they never last long because they wear themselves out. You need to move to machinery to become an efficient farming operation. I hadn't thought about it like that. It's so educational to see a topic covered from another point of view.

I attended the farmers markets workshop in the second afternoon session. There were 5 sessions for each time slot. Then we all gathered again in the pavilion for the keynote speaker.

David Shields, Food historian

David Shields Keynote
David Shields had the perfect talk for this group of people including young farmers, chefs, and farmers market organizers. He talked about the historical crops in Florida and encouraged people to bring some of them back. One crop he talked about was coontie or arrowroot (Zamia pumila), a very slow growing Florida native cycad, which was harvested almost to extinction for its tuberous roots to make Animal Crackers and the like.

David is from South Carolina so I asked him if he'd ever seen a coontie. No he hadn't, so I took him just outside the pavilion where it was planted. We are now friends on Facebook so I could send him a link to Roger Hammer's article on the Atala hairstreak butterfly, which almost became extinct because its only larval food is the coontie.
Shields' topic was traditional Florida crops. David & the coonties...

Supper was grilling...

Grilling the beautiful Seminole pumpkin and peppers.
Breading the catfish for dinner
Benne kumquat cake: So delicious... Caterer and her staff were cheered after supper.

So this was more than just another stop on the #floweredshirttour; this was an inspiring event that gave me hope for the future of Florida, its smart and ambitious farmers, and all their support groups. Plus the food was fantastic!

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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