2018 Central Florida Food System Tour- Part 1
Last Friday, February 2nd, 2018, leaders from the Central Florida community came together for an all day tour of the Central Florida Food System. This was the first tour of this kind, exploring all aspects of food, from the farm to the table. The tour was hosted by UF/IFAS Extension and a local food policy council, Good Food Central Florida.
The 2018 Central Florida Food System Tour included expert presenters on agriculture, food, community development, and sustainability. The participants spanned from elected officials from Washington DC, Orange County, Seminole County, and local municipalities. These leaders were complemented by community influencers and volunteers who are the boots-on-the-ground champions of change in Central Florida.
So why did all of these people take a day to fill a charter bus and ride to farms and food hubs across the area?
Well, we have a big population,
with a little bit of a food problem, and Florida can do something about it!
The Food Situtation
Globally, the population is about 7 billion, and is expected to increase to 9.5 billion by 2030. 38% of the Earth’s surface is used for agricultural production, and the loss of habitat is considered the leading cause of loss of biodiversity. Though we produce enough food to feed every single person on the planet, 1 billion people still go hungry. The food that we do enjoy travels, on average, 1500 miles from the farm to your plate.
This is an issue of the entire food system including production, processing, distribution, consumption, and waste.
Florida’s second largest industry is agriculture, and the state provides the second highest value of produce in the entire USA. Florida grows mostly specialty crops, all the good stuff, and is first in production value of oranges, fresh market tomatoes, watermelons, grapefruits, sugarcane, fresh market snap beans, and fresh market cucumbers. These specialty crops require specialty farmers, and in Florida, less than ¼ of 1% of our population claims farming as their profession, and half of them do it full time. Oh yeah, their average age is about 59!
In addition, agriculture and natural resources cover about 2/3 of Florida and contribute to ecological services such as habitat and water recharge to our aquifer. Despite the rapid development throughout Florida’s history, agriculture remains a significant part of our economy. Florida provides much of the US with fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the Winter.
Hopefully you are starting to get the bigger picture, and the role that we all play even on the local level. The 2018 Central Florida Food System Tour included friends of the food system, from production farms big and small, rural and urban, to processing areas, to distribution hubs, to an artistic display of food waste.
Stay tuned to learn more about who presented, and who was there to learn and participate in solutions to build a more resilient local food system!