Marion County workshop to promote healthy lifestyles

About 65% of Marion County residents are overweight, just about mirroring the state average. But by coupling edible gardening with positive nutrition, the organizers of an Ocala workshop hope to inspire healthy lifestyles among the county’s residents and possibly beyond.

Rebecca Elliott
Rebecca Elliott, a UF/IFAS Extension Marion County agent, doles out samples of passion fruit juice during the 2023 program. Photo Courtesy of Amanda Marek

On Thursday, 54 people are expected to participate in Plant to Plate, a program presented by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension Marion County. They’ll learn about fruit and vegetable production, micro-irrigation, hydroponics, edible ornamental landscaping, nutrition and healthy cooking tips. Participants will receive edible plants, fruit and vegetable production kits, hydroponics kits and a personalized recipe book to help them cook healthy meals with the food they eventually harvest from their own backyards.

The Extension office first offered the workshop last year, and participants shared overwhelmingly positive feedback within their follow-up evaluations, said Amanda Marek, a Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ agent and one of the event organizers.

“Folks were grateful to get those plants and those kits to help minimize some of those barriers for them,” she said.

Participants will also benefit from the expertise of Catherine Campbell, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of family, youth and community sciences. As she did last year, Campbell will offer optional Veggie Meter “readings.” The non-invasive instrument that produces these readings measures antioxidants in the body.

Event organizers hope to eventually partner with Extension agents in counties across the state and publish educational materials online so more Florida residents can learn to live healthy lives by incorporating homegrown produce in their diets, Marek said.

“If folks don’t have the means of coming to an in-person program – if it’s too far or cost-prohibitive – they can still get a small component of the same educational material at home, on their computers, or watch it on their phones,” she said. “It’s really to improve accessibility of the program as well as reach.”

Note: Although registration for the workshop is full, members of the media are invited to attend.

When: May 2, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: 2232 NE Jacksonville Rd., Ocala.

Media Contact: Please email Megan Winslow,


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


Megan Winslow
Posted: April 29, 2024

Category: UF/IFAS
Tags: Amanda Marek, Catherine Campbell, Class, Edible Ornamentals, Events, Family, Florida-friendly Landscaping, Foodscaping, Gardening, Marion County, Megan Winslow, Nutrition, Obesity, Ocala, Overweight, Plant To Plate, Progragm, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension Marion County, University Of Florida Institute Of Food And Agricultural Sciences, Veggie Meter, Workshop, Youth And Community Sciences

Subscribe For More Great Content

IFAS Blogs Categories