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COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT – CREATING A CULTURE THAT CELEBRATES AND SUPPORTS LOCAL FOOD SYSTEMS

Kelly Greer, Amy Vu, LuAnn Duncan & Richard Tyson
UF/IFAS Extension Orange County, Orlando, FL

Situation: Orange County is rapidly urbanizing while the once robust agricultural economy is struggling. The current culture among planners is for continued rapid development into rural areas with little concern for effects on agriculture. Three million people live within a 50 mile radius of Orlando with only a thirty day supply of food in the grocery stores and warehouses. Current attitudes are creating a threat to food security. The objective of UF/IFAS Extension Orange County is to enhance community development by creating and supporting local food initiatives, a necessary component of sustainable living.

Methods: Extension’s community development food systems outreach includes educational classes and demonstrations, support of innovative food programs and being active in local food networks. Classes on understanding the cottage food law, food businesses and food safety, have assisted local entrepreneurs. Extension Agents also helped create the Backyard Chicken ordinance in Orlando, used by 4 surrounding cities and 3 counties as a baseline for their ordinances. Small farm workshops were conducted on beekeeping and the latest crops and alternative methods of producing food for local markets.

Results: Program successes, surveys and pre-post tests have shown significant impacts across multiple program areas. Examples include 1) being founding members of the Good Food Central Florida Food Policy Council, 2) promoting the implementation of the Florida Cottage Food Law, backyard chickens and beekeeping, 3) demonstrating new crops such as hops, thereby creating awareness and demand for local products, and 4) demonstrating alternative cropping systems for urban agriculture innovators.

Conclusion: Cooperative Extension is a bridge between the agricultural community, urban clientele and local governments, helping to promote and enhance sustainable farm to table local food businesses and networks. This has helped spur adoption of food sustainability programs in government as well as in private and commercial sectors of the county.

 

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