The UF/IFAS Hastings Research Farm on Cowpen Branch Road just finished up a nitrogen trial on an alternative crop for growers in the Tri-County Agriculture Area (TCAA) which includes Putnam, St. John’s and Flagler Counties. The UF/IFAS Hastings Extension team consists of researchers, extension agents, and professors from the University of Florida that are avidly working on finding alternative crops for Hastings growers. In light of the diminishing potato chip contracts (http://staugustine.com/news/local-news/2018-01-16/blindsided-global-shifts-snacking-industry-affect-st-johns-county-s) UF is experimenting with several alternative crops that are well adapted to the local soils and have promising markets in order to promote economic sustainability among local growers. Brussels Sprouts is one of those alternative crops. They are a trendy food that often shows up as an appetizer on a menu, either sauteed with olive oil and garlic or wrapped in bacon. At County Line Produce, you’ll find them in tact on the stalk which helps them maintain freshness and also reduces the labor involved in processing the crop. This seems to be a widespread marketing strategy as I’ve also noticed them on the stalk at Sam’s Club. After removing the sprouts from the stalks, the stalks are a nutritious treat for livestock or a great addition to your compost pile.
The nitrogen trial was led by Dr. Lincoln Zotarelli, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida. The goal of the research was to determine the optimal nitrogen fertilization rate for this particular crop on the sandy soils typically found in Hastings. Although the farm cannot sell their produce, the UF/IFAS is diligent to ensure that no food goes to waste. Upon completion of the trial, the bounty from the crop was donated to a local food ministry in Palatka. Several volunteers from the “Just for Jesus” food ministry assisted in the Brussels Sprout harvest on Saturday, January 20, 2018. “Just for Jesus” food pantry offers food to the needy every Tuesday from 1:30 to 3:00 PM at the ministry hub located at 3001 St. John’s Avenue. A valid drivers license is all that is required to receive food from the pantry. After an announcement in the Palatka Daily News about the free Brussels, a total of 32 new families attended the food pantry during the giveaway on January 23, 2018.
(shown above: Nikki Cummings (left), Suzie Stewart (middle), Sue Hege (right) – Volunteers from “Just for Jesus Ministry” that helped to bring in the harvest for the needy.)