Disney World of Agriculture
What was it like to attend the 2018 PMA Fresh Summit? It was like the Disney World of Agriculture! Held at the Orlando Convention Center, the banner, displays, flashy lights and free taste bites were simply overwhelming. With over 1300 exhibitors, you could find onions from eastern Oregon, sweet potato vodka from North Carolina, bouquets from Canada, cherries from Argentina and anything else you might be craving. I felt like I was walking around in orchards of fresh fruits and luscious fields of freshly harvested vegetables extending from Canada to Peru. Over 60 countries were represented at the Expo held on Oct 19-20, with the Tri-County Agriculture Area (TCAA) of St. Johns, Flagler and Putnam Counties right in the heart of the madness. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services displayed their “Fresh from Florida” brand to promote Florida-grown products with approximately 50 booths representing producers and growers around Florida. With 47,100 commercial farms and 9.4 million acres of food production in Florida, the State is definitely on the map when it comes to agriculture around the world.
First Coast Fresh from the TCAA
“First Coast Fresh,” promoted and marketed by David Dinkins (UF/IFAS Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Specialist), highlighted the unique and alternative crops such as datil peppers and purple sweet potatoes which have a niche in the TCAA. Several folks represented the First Coast Fresh Booth to promote agriculture in the TCAA. Angela Bean and her husband were there to promote Old St. Augustine Gourmet Foods that grow their own peppers and produce datil pepper hot sauces, salsas and marinades. The datil peppers shown in the header photo were harvested last month from Revels Pepper Farm in Putnam County.
Danny Johns and his sister were there to promote Blue Sky Farms and their locally-grown purple sweet potatoes that certainly deserve a place on the shelves at local grocery stores rather than purples coming all the way from California. Gary England and his wife were there to try to establish markets for alternative crops such as artichokes, brussels sprouts and sweet corn currently undergoing research at the Hastings Agriculture Extension Center. Dr. Wendy Mussoline was there to find new markets for growers that are experimenting with alternative crops such as broccoli, cauliflower and sweet potatoes in Flagler and Putnam Counties.
Julia Montgomery, Produce Export Specialist for NE Florida, was there to support First Coast Fresh and assist with export plans for datil pepper products and other niche markets in the TCAA. The faithful folks from the TCAA were able to conduct a group interview with AgNet Media (AKA VSC News) to share the expanding story of alternative crops coming from the Hastings area. This team is certainly dedicated to finding new markets for our growers and keeping up with the competition from North Carolina, Mexico, California and beyond.