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August 1st Optional Pre-Conference Tour

Urban Farming Techniques Tour (8:30 am to 12:30 pm)

We’ll kick off the conference on Friday with a bus tour of three operations showcasing Urban Farming Techniques.

Data released last month from the US Census (link: found that one in three Americans now lives in the country’s ten most populous areas (which includes Miami).  This data, which also mirrors global population trends (link:, underscores a growing interest in urban farming in the U.S. and overseas.   

Our first stop will be the Exploration Gardens at the UF/IFAS Extension which contains seven themed gardens.  One features vegetable growing techniques for urban farming. On display are raised beds, grow boxes, square foot gardens, aquaponics, floating raft systems, the vertical stacked (Verti-Gro® and Hydro-StackerTM) systems and the nutrient flow technique (NFT) hydroponic system.  The vertical and NFT hydroponic systems require electricity supplied by solar panels to provide daily fertigation.  Solar power offers opportunities for growers to produce “Off the Grid,” with easily applied setup and maintenance.       

Our second stop is Orlando’s East End Market, a    neighborhood market and food hub in the Audubon Park Garden District of Orlando.  The Market showcases some of Central Florida’s top food entrepreneurs, trades people, artists, and chefs and is home to a dozen merchants offering local seafood, meats, daily baked bread, freshly roasted coffee, organic juice, raw food specialties, artisan cheeses, and local produce.  It also has an incubator kitchen and a working market garden. It also organizes classes and organizes community dinners.  According to its web site (hyperlink:, the market is “not only a hub for local food and culture, but also a community space fostering creativity and collaboration.”

According to the UF/IFAS, the newest production area for blueberries is Central Florida, accounting for “approximately 35% of the total acreage and may be the area with the most growth potential for the future.”   The third and final stop is Beck Brother’s Blueberry Farm (hyperlink:, featuring 20 beautiful acres of southern highbush blueberry varieties suitable for the early spring season in Florida.

Blueberries are grown adjacent to encroaching new housing complexes in Windermere, just a half hour drive from downtown Orlando.  The Beck brothers welcome a freewheeling style of U-pick, where the public can roam the entire acreage with few restrictions. 

Learn the advantages of combining a local market focus with conventional blueberry production, and how commercial harvests take advantage of the high value market window enjoyed by Florida blueberry growers.  

Please note: the charge for this tour is $20, advance registration is required and must be made by July 14; as space is limited, early registration is strongly recommended.  Water, soda, and light snack will be provided.

Participants may expect to walk over uneven paths up to one half mile. Though every reasonable precaution will be taken to prevent injury, participants must sign a liability waiver in order to participate in the tour. Closed-toe shoes are required and no high heels will be permitted. Dress comfortably. Bring sun protection of preference (ie: sunglasses, hat, sunscreen, etc.). Richard Tyson, UF/IFAS Orange County Extension Director, will host the tour. 

After checking in at the exhibition lobby building, please meet at Osceola Heritage Park’s Exhibition Building no later than 8:15 am (please refer to the parking pass for exact location).  We will board at 8:15 am, and departure time is 8:30 am– alternation transportation is not available so please be prompt.


(Photo courtesy of: Beck Brother’s Blueberry Farm)


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