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

Situation: Florida’s climate and pests create a challenge for growing food crops. The target audience are Marion County residents with little or no experience who want to produce food in their yard or garden.

Objective/Purpose: Participants will gain knowledge about how to provide for essential crop needs and about specific crops that are well-adapted for the North Central Florida region. They will adopt practices which will allow them to easily and sustainably produce their own food with fruits and vegetables.

Methods: The program has been offered five times and consists of a two hour presentation that is followed by a tour of a demonstration garden. A step-by-step process was detailed about how to select the most productive and well-adapted crops for each participant’s situation. Each fruit and vegetable crop was provided with a profile that covered the key crop production information. Locally produced fruit and vegetables were available for taste sampling. Fruit and vegetables featured in the program were available for purchase or free after the program.

Results: Programs are well attended (n=90). Evaluations indicated that all participants gained knowledge and 72% specifically stated at least one aspect of the program they intended to implement. After the program more than half of program participants purchased or were given at least one plant.

Conclusion: This program successfully helps participants who have little to no prior knowledge to begin fruit and vegetable production that will provide a reliable source of food. By having plants available immediately after each program it eliminates the barrier of locating the UF-recommended plants & varieties. Due to the high demand and enthusiastic feedback by participants, this program will help grow the local food system.


  1. I look forward to hearing more about how your sweet potato slip production and distribution is going…please keep me posted

  2. This is a great initiative that all counties could adopt.

    For perennial fruit trees that may be covered in the context of this program, are y’all able to cover pruning techniques? One example would be pruning blueberry plants. There are a number of very knowledgeable Extension agents in the North Central FL district that could help support/stretch this initiative to include a pruning workshop.

    One additional thought: in response to COVID-19, FDACS and Florida Farm Bureau have been compiling resources of local agriculture producers that the public can purchase ag. commodities directly from. There may be an opportunity to help disseminate this information to participants of this course to foster support/create awareness of our local producers.

  3. I like the fact that plants were available at programs. It seems as thought that would help to put clientele on the right track for practice change.

  4. Agree with Liz, we all need to do follow-up to see if the people put this into practice.

  5. Nice program and great graphics! Are you planning to followup with attendees to see what they actually implemented and will implement again? what they struggled with may help tweak future classes.