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.