COVID-19 response: New UF/IFAS web page to give tips on home-grown food

For some, few activities beat the satisfaction of growing food at home. They find it fascinating to pull peas from pods, which in turn satisfies a need to create something from soil, water, seeds and sun.

With the onset and continuation of the coronavirus pandemic, stress goes up, jobs vanish, and boredom may set in. These folks want to learn how to grow food at home.

To feed that hunger for knowledge, UF/IFAS Extension agents statewide launched a web page to inform consumers how to grow produce in their yard.

All across Florida, people are planting victory gardens at home to help feed themselves and their families. The victory garden concept began during World War I and was popular again during World War II to help feed troops overseas and to boost morale at home. Those growing victory gardens and others growing food from home will find the new page helpful, said Wendy Wilber, UF/IFAS statewide master gardener coordinator and leader of this project.

“This is a one-stop online resource for Floridians who want to start growing edibles in their landscapes,” said Wendy Wilber, UF/IFAS statewide master gardener coordinator and leader of this project. “It is being launched now to support folks as they are safer at home with the COVID-19 crisis. They have time on their hands, and they are thinking that they should grow edibles to supplement their groceries. It also helps relieve stress.”

Jessica Ryals, a member of Wilber’s team and a food sustainability agent for UF/IFAS Extension Collier County, said when people encounter economic challenges, such as those job losses brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, they often grow food at home. It’s less expensive, and it’s fun, she said.

As an example, UF/IFAS Extension agents received many requests for tips on home-grown food when the recession hit around 2008, Ryals said.

Data for the new web page will come from the UF/IFAS Extension publishing library, UF/IFAS videos, blogs and other sources that talk about producing vegetables at home.

Interest in home-grown food has gone up dramatically. For example, compared with a year ago at the same time, page views for vegetable gardening on the UF/IFAS Extension publishing library went up more than 500 percent for the six-week period that ended April 27.

The home-grown food web page will link to information on vegetable gardening, upcoming classes and how to contact your county’s UF/IFAS Extension office.

It also will cover topics such as fruits and berries, backyard chickens and beekeeping, and it will include a link to the UF/IFAS diagnostics website, which can help diagnose plant, pest and soil problems.

The diagnostics page is included for users to learn how to send a disease sample in case they are having diseases that can’t be diagnosed by a UF/IFAS Extension agent, Wilber said. The diagnostics site also helps residents who also might want a plant or insect identified.

“The goal of the site is to inform, support and inspire gardeners to grow edibles in their Florida yard,” Wilber said.

Wilber worked on the web page with a team of UF/IFAS Extension agents statewide. In addition to Ryals, they include:

  • Liz Felter, a regional specialized agent in food systems based at the UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Extension Center in Apopka, Florida.
  • Juanita Popenoe, a UF/IFAS Extension multi-county commercial fruit agent for Lake, Orange and Marion counties.
  • Christa Court, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics on the main campus in Gainesville.

“It made sense that a web page pulling together all the great UF/IFAS information we have on this topic be put in one spot,” Wilber said. “I think this is an excellent opportunity to show Floridians some easy techniques to successfully grow produce in their yard, patio or balcony and that with success, they will continue to supplement their diet with homegrown produce.”


By: Brad Buck, 813-757-2224 (office); 352-875-2641 (cell);

The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS)
is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make
that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than
a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty
in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions
to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. | @UF_IFAS





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Posted: April 28, 2020

Category: Fruits & Vegetables, SFYL Hot Topic
Tags: Covid-19, Home-grown Food, Master Gardener Volunteer Program, UF/IFAS Extension, Vegetable Gardening, Victory Gardens, Web Page, Wendy Wilber

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