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Tiare Silvasy, Virgilia Zabala, John Roberts
UF/IFAS Extension Orange County, 6021 S. Conway Rd. Orlando, FL 32812

Situation: Extension programs that utilize a systems approach by combining horticulture and physical well-being can multiply impacts per client. This is especially critical in areas of high population density with a need for environmentally friendly landscaping practices and healthy dietary choice education. Cross-pollination of extension programs can be challenging with the different interests and needs of each program’s target audience. Our target audience included residents who are interested in improving their gardens as well as their diets. The objectives of this program were to increase knowledge of Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM (FFL) practices, nutrition, and gain confidence in preparing a healthy recipe.

Educational Methods: UF/IFAS Extension Orange County agents joined forces to implement Guided Garden Tours and Tasting using food to bridge the gap between horticulture and human health. In this program, trained Master Gardener Volunteers guide participants through the Exploration Gardens. The tour emphasizes FFL principles, low-maintenance plants, low-volume irrigation, wildlife and vegetable gardens, and includes a plant clinic visit. The tour culminates in the demonstration kitchen where the Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Agent discusses the nutritional value of vegetables grown in the garden and explains the preparation of three dishes prepared using garden produce. Participants sample the dishes and receive an in-house designed recipe card.

Results: Post-survey results (n=30) show 100% of participants reported increased knowledge of plant identification, 96% increased knowledge about FFL principles and efficient irrigation practices, 96% increased nutrition knowledge related to the vegetables presented in class, and 100% felt they could prepare the recipes at home.

Conclusion: Innovative approaches can efficiently reach the large population in Orange County to address the concerns of environmental degradation, obesity, and disease. Using food to bridge the gap between disciplines, clients can simultaneously learn to adopt environmentally friendly landscaping practices and incorporate more healthy foods into their diets.


  1. Great collaborative work here! Is there an opportunity to stretch this initiative and include different varieties (developed by UF plant breeders) for a number of the fruits/vegetables to increase excitement for the different textures, flavors, colors, etc?

  2. I appreciate that this program combines disciplines. Well done. How did you market the program? Was there a marketing method or avenue that seemed to yield the greatest result?

    • Hi Karen, We used a UF branding template and made a flyer that we posted in our office. We posted the class on our Eventbrite page for people to sign up and also made a Facebook event that led people to register on the Facebook page.

      • Thank you for the response and information, Tia.

  3. I like the idea “guided garden tours and tasting”. Are you planning to offer this program regularly?

    • It gets hot in Central Florida during the summer months so we play to do it Sept, Oct, Nov in the fall and Jan, Feb, March in the spring. Class times are from 10 – 11:30am.

  4. Do you plan to follow up with participants in 6 months to see what they have implemented from what they learned?

  5. This is a great partnership approach! I like the idea of Florida-Friendly foods for the home landscape. There are many plants that can offer food for wildlife or humans. Integrating them into your programming is innovative and a great idea in a larger county. Great job!