March 4th, 2023, was a beautiful sunny day. The UF/IFAS Extension Orange County campus was flooded with 2300 people to celebrate the 12th annual Garden Festival and Plant Sale.
Plant and craft vendors were here showcasing their beautiful products. Patrons loved the locally grown plants, honey, and corn meal, as well as the locally produced arts & crafts. They rushed into the vendors’ booths to purchase the products. With big, happy, and smiling faces, the 47 vendors reported that they sold 1/3 of their products within the first hour alone!
The food court was filled with people enjoying various types of meals from 6 different food trucks. They provided mouthwatering BBQ, delicious Hawaii rice plates, fancy coffee and smoothies, breakfast and lunch crêpes, vegan baked goods and organic ice pops. The food truck vendors were sold out by 2pm! Patrons were looking for more options and asked to have more food trucks next year.
The USDA, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Orange County Environmental Protection Division, Florida Right to Clean Water, Greater Orlando Orchid Society, Fleet Farming, Orange County Utilities Water Division, Central Florida Fruit Society, and Orange Blossom Beekeepers Association joined the festival. They were there to promote and educate county residents on clean water, environmental protection, harmful insect awareness and prevention, bee protection and honey process, orchid growing and edible food farming.
Children who attended the festival had a great time making finger puppets, painted flower art, and seed growing mats for their home garden! The scavenger hunt is always a crowd favorite activity for kids every year.
Education sessions were the highlight of the day. Among the important topics was Only Rain Down the Drain- how putting leaves, grass clippings, and fertilizer down storm drains adds excess nutrients to Florida’s lakes and rivers. This leads to toxic algal blooms, tainted water supplies, fish kills, and degraded recreational opportunities. Experts also gave talks about bulbs for Florida landscapes, container gardening, native plants for residential landscapes, how to propagate plants from cuttings, growing staghorn ferns, propagating from seeds, and the honey process from flowers to your table. It was a fun and educational day for all the attendees.
This festival would not happen without the sponsors and donors who supported the event, and the Master Gardener Volunteers who organized and worked the event. Thank you, Orange County, for supporting our Master Gardener Volunteer Program! And a special thank to all the sponsors, donors and volunteers who made the 2023 Garden Festival and Plant Sale a great success.
Gold Sponsor: Orlando Utility Commission (OUC)
Silver Sponsor: Lukas Nursery
Bronze Sponsor: Mister Landscaper
Donors: Bread for the Masses, Green Isle Nursery, Howard Fertilizer and Chemical Company, Mainly Vandas, Plants and Pamperin LLC, Royal Landscape Nursery, and Walker Donut Factory
Volunteers: 100+ UF/IFAS Extension Orange County Master Gardener Volunteers
Photos by: Kimberly Butler, Master Gardener Volunteer
Written by: Chia Chi, Master Gardener Volunteer and Clarissa Chairez, Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator