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FOOD PRODUCTION SUCCESS & SUPPLYING LOCAL GROWERS DIRECTLY

M. Bailey, UF/IFAS Extension, Marion County, Ocala, FL

Situation:

    1. North Central Florida’s climate and pests create a challenge for both small farmers and gardeners alike. A lack of actionable knowledge and reduced availability of well-adapted plants further compound the challenge local growers experience. The objective is for local growers to acquire and implement knowledge as well as make available plants directly from the extension agent that otherwise would not be available.

Methods:

    1. Over the past year, nine programs were offered which consisted of a presentation and time for questions and answers. Topics detailed key variables associated with food crop production. The agent made a bulk purchase of sweet potato slips to be distributed to local growers. To advertise the sweet potato slips, posts were made on social media, flyers distributed, and program attendees were notified of the sale. A sweet potato fact sheet was also created and provided to everyone who purchased sweet potato slips. Additionally, bulk purchases of passion fruit plants were made and distributed to local growers. An EDIS publication was created about passion fruit production.

Results:

    1. Programs were well attended (n=2,210). Post-program surveys (n=105) indicated that all participants gained knowledge and 92% specifically stated at least one aspect of the program they had implemented. A total of 332 passion fruit plants were purchased, most of which by local small farms. More than 2,500 sweet potato slips were distributed to approximately 95 individuals. Completed post-harvest surveys (n=26) indicated two and a half pounds of sweet potatoes per slip planted.

Conclusion:

    This programmatic effort successfully helped participants gain knowledge and use that knowledge to begin fruit and vegetable production which likely would not have occurred if the plants were not directly supplied. Due to the high demand and program participant adoption of program objectives, this effort has helped to grow the local food system.

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