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Title photo, Food for thought. Food security and the home gardener

Food for Thought

Food Security

Food security has become a hot subject for some folks. With commodities moving quickly around our globe it’s hard to say just where your food is coming from. Labeling may help with some foods but with fruits and vegetables it seems a little more complicated.  Most of us like to know that our produce is local. This isn’t necessarily possible since all produce is seasonal. For instance, during mid-summer, you can bet your tomatoes will not be coming from Florida. Never the less, closer to home seems to be most people’s preference.

Pesticides and Organic

Most everyone would agree that fewer pesticides are a good thing. Modern farming for the masses doesn’t always afford the farmer to grow vegetables like you would at home. Pesticides are often sprayed preventatively with attention given to controlling common pests. A squash grower can’t afford powdery mildew or pickle worms when their livelihood is at stake. Pests like these could do maximum damage before the grower knew they were there. Luckily, the United States regulates pesticides, when used properly, they are safe and effective. Even organic growers use pesticides. Organic pesticides are from natural sources and generally easier on the environment, and to beneficial insects that may hang out around your garden. Still, they kill insects and may be deadly to all insects caught up in the spray. Once organic pesticides dry on the plants, they are usually safer than traditional pesticides for beneficial visitors. Whether your produce is organically or traditionally grown, washing them before you prepare them is always a good idea. When gardening at home using pesticides may be a necessity when you are having a problem with insects damaging your plants. Don’t forget to read the pesticide label.

Fresh vegetable sit packed on a packinghouse floor ready to be shipped. Photo by David Austin

Fresh vegetables sit packed on a packinghouse floor ready to be shipped. Photo by David Austin

To know your food is to grow your food

Growing your own food can be challenging yet rewarding. It also ensures you know how it was grown. Like the farmer growing squash, you’ll want to use some preventative pesticides yourself. For example, If you have ever tried to grow corn in Florida, you know pretty quickly that caterpillars are not your friends and they make it next to impossible to get a successful crop. Using an organic pesticide such as BT can save you a lot of heartaches. BT is the short name for the beneficial bacteria, Bacillus thuringiensis. This bacteria naturally occurs in soils and there some 70 known strains of it in nature. As an organic pesticide, it is lethal to caterpillars when ingested but harmless to humans. It should be sprayed on at regular intervals to be effective at discouraging caterpillars from eating your food. Reading the label will tell you exactly how much and how often to spray. The pesticide label gives complete directions on how to use each product safely

Come learn with us

UF/IFAS Extension, HIghlands County is offering an online class on vegetable gardening on January 9th running from 9 am until 12:30 pm. Click Here to register or learn more.  Along with the class, you’ll get one hundred pages of University of Florida information on Florida vegetable gardening that I will send you as a PDF.  You’ll also get 5 packs of vegetable seeds of your choice. You will have to pick the seeds up in Sebring. Call the Extension office at 863 402-6540 to learn more about upcoming classes. Below you will find a link to sign up for our newsletter. We usually have a different class on the 2nd Saturday of every month! February’s class will be on canning and preserving food.

A vintage Farm truck holds boxes of Fresh from Florida produce.

A vintage farm truck at EPCOT filled with decorative boxes of Florida produce adorns the landscape beds. Photo by David Austin

Stay in touch!

In Highlands County, our office is at 4509 W George Blvd., Sebring. The Master Gardener Help Desk is open Monday – Friday from 9 AM to 3:30 PM.

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