Meet Fred Dietrich III, Winner of the Innovative Farmer Award

Fred Dietrich

Photo Credit:

Hugh Fred Dietrich III and his family owns Dietrich’s Flying D Ranch in Orlando, Florida.  Dietrich is one of three winners for this year’s Innovative Farmer Award. Congratulations!!

The ranch is a 600 acres family operation that was established during World War II, and has maintained a herd of Santa Gertrudis Cattle since 1957. The ranch is now recognized as one of leading herds in the breed.  The ranch is operated with low inputs but high technology is used for breeding selection. Timber is harvested from time to time keeping the best habitat for wildlife while providing income for the ranch.

The ranch management programs have always promoted Wildlife Habitat Conservation. The ranch includes a portion of the Econlockhatchee River and its associated hardwood swamp. It also includes a portion of the hardwood wetlands associated with Long Branch, a named tributary of the Econlockhatchee River.  These areas provide habitat for many species of wildlife. The water ways are managed to optimize native submergent, emergent, and other aquatic vegetation.

Dietrich worked for 30 years as an Agribusiness Educator. For many years he has served in the leadership of multiple important organizations across the state including the Orange County Farm Bureau, Orange County Cattlemen’s Association, Florida Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association.  The National Vocational Agriculture Teachers Association recognized Dietrich as Outstanding Teacher in 1986 and awarded him with its Life Time Achievement in 2000.

Take the time to congratulate Fred Dietrich at the conference and learn more from him!

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Meet Steve Crump, Winner of the Innovative Farmer Award

2014 Innovarive farmer 033

Photo Credit: Karen Stauderman

Steve Crump runs Vo-LaSalle Farms, a truly diversified farm in Volusia County producing 110 acres of citrus (65 of them are owned and 45 managed), 1 acre of verti-gro vegetables, 22 acres of beef cattle pasture, 45 acres of bermuda hay and other livestock. Steve Crump is one of three winners for this year’s Innovative Farmer Award. Congratulations!!

Since 1969, the farm started as a commercial orange operation selling to brokers, but have slowly transitioned into a retail farm business.  Retail sales include gift fruit shipping, wholesale citrus to fruit stands in the area and fresh squeezed orange juice.  The farm began growing strawberries and vegetables in a Verti-Gro system in 2009 and later added winter tomatoes and peppers in high tunnels in 2013.

Steve’s commitment to the conservation of natural resources is evident. For example, the farm’s citrus groves are surrounded by a 50 foot buffer zone of natural vegetation that protects natural lakes from potential fertilizer and pesticide runoff.  The farm also uses no-till production practices in their groves which enables a grassy middle to grow between the tree rows that serves to prevent erosion of valuable topsoil while building the organic levels in sandy soils.  The farm also utilizes fertilizer and irrigation inputs and techniques that prevent leaching and make the most efficient use of water.

The grade-out fruit and vegetables along with the unsold hay are fed to the cattle and hogs to maximize sustainability on the farm.  Farmer Steve likes to refer his farm as ‘blended’ -a conventional farm that utilizes many of the principles and bio-safe products normally applied in organic farms.

Steve Crump

Photo Credit: Karen Stauderman

Future plans for the farm include enlarging the U-Pick strawberry acreage, planting blueberries, and subsequently U-Pick peaches. Most importantly, the farm will continue to battle the slow spread of citrus greening and attempt replacing or reviving some of the currently infected trees.

Steve Crump is the chairman for the University of Florida Volusia County citrus advisory committee and the Volusia Citrus Health Management Area (CHMA).  Crump has been actively involved in hosting multiple educational and farm events and is often consulted by media outlets in the region.

Take the time to congratulate Steve at the conference and learn more from him!

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Meet Ken Ryan, Winner of the Innovative Farmer Award

Ken RyanFarmer Ken Ryan runs Herban Gardens in North Fort Myers, Florida. He is one of three winners for this year’s Innovative Farmer Award. Congratulations!!

Ken is passionate about growing high quality food plants. His North Fort Myers farm has a total of 5 acres, but actual acreage used is ½ an acre with everything grown in containers. The main focus of the business is micro-green production but herbs and edible flowers are also produced.  Ryan began his farm operation in New Hampshire in 1985 but in 1999 he moved his farm operation to North Fort Myers, Florida.

The farm uses containers for all crops grown on the farm. The reasons for this include reducing the amount of land used for the operation, control and conserve water, and minimize weeds. Most of the crops grown are cut and cut again so there are several harvests from the same space.

The farm uses few off farm products as Ken Ryan 2possible and practice recycling and re-use of materials.  Vermi-compost and vermi-compost tea are made on the farm, and are widely used for providing nutrients for the container growing system.

To this day Ken’s focus has been on quality, not quantity. When selling to high-end restaurants Ryan emphasizes the need to develop a relationship with the chefs so that they can trust each other. His clients have relied on his farm to deliver the highest quality product, and by harvesting the day before, and often the morning of delivery, they get the freshest products available. The farm’s direct-marketing uses a planned route system that takes food distribution into consideration, so that even at this small scale, the carbon foot print is reduced to the largest degree possible.

Future plans include putting up several hoop houses, expanding the existing shadehouse, and to grow exotic culinary mushrooms in order to add to the more than 80 varieties of micro-vegetables and herbs produced. Additionally, farmer Ken would like to pass on the farm to his two loyal employees, who are young beginner farmers, ages 21 and 17 years old.

Ken has collaborated extensively with the University of Florida, IFAS Extension Office Ken Ryan 3and became part of the the Agriculture and Natural Resources Advisory Committee (ANRAC) in 2005.  He is also an active member of the Southwest Florida Small Farmers Network. His farm has hosted numerous workshops and he enjoys sharing his expertise with fellow farmers and consumers, especially the young.

Take the time to congratulate Ken at the conference and learn more from him!

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Chef Tony Donnelly share his views and menu!

Chef TonyD

Photo Credit: Yiqian Ma

We interviewed Chef Tony Donnelly while meeting with him and the great team of Osceola Heritage Park, in final preparations for the conference.

He shared with us his views about the upcoming Small Farms Conference and the local food systems. Chef Donelly has been a key player in the conference since the first year we celebrated it, 2009. From that year, and every year since, Chef Donelly has worked in building strong relationships with farmers and ranchers in the region and state by procuring local food ingredients for his day to day operation (See video below).

This year Chef Donelly shared with us his excitement to create new food dishes while using local ingredients. For example, he is focusing this year in providing delicious dishes that appeal to meat eaters and vegetarians alike. This includes some curry and Mediterranean flares.

Conference participants in the past have pointed out that the food they enjoy at the conference is superb, and this year Chef Tony Donelly and his great team will not leave us disappointed. Check out some of the exciting items in the menu for this year:

Friday Networking Reception

Florida Table Potato Chips and Dips

Fruit, Cheese and Farm Vegetable Displays

Port Canaveral Shrimps w/ Goat Cheese Grits

Sambal Curry Chicken and Vegetables Skewers

Potted Grass Fed Beef Shooters

Carved Sirloin of Florida Waygu Beef w/ Green Peppercorn Demi/ Silver Dollar Rolls

Florida Gator Bite Cajun Style

A Selection of Appetizer and Dessert Bites presented by Visiting Chef Alyson Zildjian of Zildjian’s Catering, Sarasota Florida

Signature Lunch

Salad Bar w/ Hydro and Organic Florida Greens

Marinated Portabello Mushroom Steaks

Curried Goat Korma w/ Grilled Naan and Poppadum’s

Grass Fed Beef Pot Roast w/ Sweet Corn Spatlese and Root Vegetables

Shoyu Glazed Roasted Chicken w/ Garlic Chives

Florida Squash and Corn Succotash w/ Tomato

Florida Callaloo Greens

Florida Peach Cobbler

Florida Blueberry Compote with Fresh Mint

Watch the interview with Chef Tony Donnelly here:

Register asap here:

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Early Registration Period Extended!

Great News!2012 Small Farms Conference.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

The early registration deadline has been extended to July 21st. We have heard your requests and have decided to give you some extra time to obtain a good discount!

New countdown timer is here!

Early Registration ends in…


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What’s bugging you?

Mary Beth Henry, Small Farms & Pesticide Licensing Extension Agent from Polk County will lead a great session that will help you take your pest management program to the next level!

Listen to a recent radio interview where Jon Butts from WMNF 88.5 talks with Mary Beth about the Small Farms Conference, the “What’s bugging you?” session, and much more!   The interview starts on marker 18 minutes, 10 seconds. Click here to listen and enjoy!

What you will experience at the “What’s bugging you” session.

Learn to identify common pests and beneficials and new pests on the horizon with a variety of visual aids, from hand lenses to microscopes.  Interact with live insects as experienced Extension faculty guide you through what to look for and resources for the future. Demonstrations and displays will provide examples of tools and technologies you can implement on farm today to improve pest management tomorrow.

Below are some the arthropods that will be discussed at the conference.

Good bug- Predatory Mite, Neoseiulus californicus (McGregor) (Arachnida: Acari: Phytoseiidae)

Bad Bug- Twospotted Spider Mite, Tetranychus urticae Koch (Arachnida: Acari: Tetranychidae)

Good bug- Swirski mite (suggested common name) Amblyseius swirskii Athias-Henriot (Arachnida: Mesostigmata: Phytoseiidae)

See this one in action below.  People usually like to see the blood and guts of a predator attacking its prey!

bug 1

Adult Amblyseius swirskii feeding on thrips larvae. Credit: Steven Arthurs, University of Florida from

Bad Bug-  Chilli Thrips (castor thrips, Assam thrips, yellow tea thrips, strawberry thrips), Scirtothrips dorsalis Hood

See an example of the damage it causes below.

bug 2

Curling of pepper leaves caused by feeding of S. dorsalis. Credit: M. A. Ciomperlik, APHIS, USDA from

See below pictures from Dr. Hugh Smith at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm.  They are of common good bugs people may encounter in their yards.

You probably know what ladybugs (ladybird beetles) look like but they may not recognize the immature (attached) which is also predacious.


Lacewing are also called trash bugs and they are predacious as immatures.  Adults fly to light and are green or brown with lace-like wings.


Minute pirate bugs are out and about and are generalists.  They are fun because they stick their mouthparts into their prey and suck the juice out like a straw.

Minute pirate bug photoUF Hugh Smith

Your may also be interested in this general publication about biological control.

See you at the conference!

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Early Registration Countdown

Hurry! Early Registration ends soon!

You can save today by registering to the Small Farms and Alternative Enterprise Conference. Watch the countdown and don’t miss a good deal!

The tours are filling up (Urban Farm is full!) but there is still room in the Farm to Chef and Livestock tours. The food menu for the event is almost final. We will provide you with final details soon, but it looks delicious!

Photo Credit: UF, IFAS, ICS

Photo Credit: UF, IFAS, ICS

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