Announcing Keynote Speaker for the First Coast Specialty Crop Conference


By Lana Nasser

Friday, July 17, 2015

The First Coast Specialty Crop Conference Planning team is pleased to announce Patty Cantrell as the conference keynote speaker. Cantrell has more than 20 years of work focusing on the community economic development power that comes from supporting family-scale, local farms in their work to produce tasty, healthy food for people and the planet.

Patty Cantrell

When asked to share her observations on local food systems, Cantrell explained that new supply chains are forming to bring healthier, fresh food to market. They involve businesses and many others with different interests and values. Some may care about the environment, others about farmers, others about human health, and so on. This creates a values-based food supply chain, or value chain.

“We are very excited to have Patty. She was an excellent choice from the planning team. She will be able to offer great insights and inspiration to our farmers in Northeast Florida,” said Danielle Treadwell, Associate Professor in Horticultural Sciences at the University of Florida.

You may recognize Patty Cantrell from her TedXManhattan talk in 2012, “New Roads to New Markets,” in which she spoke in depth about farm business options for local and regional food as well as public policy. Cantrell is also recognized for her program Regional Food Solutions, where her passion for regional food system development is put into action.

Developing healthy food systems “is challenging but very transformative and we have to be very honest about it,” Cantrell said. “Although there is not a lot of margin in this business, there is a lot of innovation happening because people from all corners are doing this because they want to,” Cantrell said.

One of the most important messages Cantrell hopes conference attendees walk away with is the notion that they are part of something larger than a singular individual or farm and each person has the power to re-purpose ideas into action. The main focus not only surrounds the farms, but the consumers and diverse interests as well, according to Cantrell.

“Entrepreneurs pursuing these opportunities also provide real benefit right in their community with new products and services ,” Cantrell said, “it’s great..”

The First Coast Specialty Crop Conference in Jacksonville, Florida, will take place on August 14 & 15.

Check out the Conference Program, all speakers and sessions, and register online at

Early Bird registration is $45 if you register on or before August 2. Registration is $55 after this date. Your registration includes refreshments, lunch, and educational materials.

For more information about the conference, contact Jose Perez at 352-294-1692 or

More about Patty Cantrell

Patty Cantrell researches, writes, and speaks nationally about local food as community economic development. She also offers strategic communications, facilitation and project development through her business Regional Food Solutions LLC. Cantrell spent 12 years developing and leading regional food initiatives in Michigan, including the 10-county northwest Michigan Taste the Local Difference and Food and Farming Network initiatives. She recently returned to live and work in her home territory of the Missouri Ozarks. Current writing includes Good Food Economy Digest blogs for the Wallace Center at Winrock International, home of the National Good Food Network. Other recent work includes Food Innovation Districts: An Economic Gardening Tool, which won a 2013 Innovation Award from the National Association of Development Organizations, and Food Hubs: Solving Local, a report for the Wallace Center on wholesale regional food marketing. In 2012 Patty brought her food system insights and expertise to the TEDx Manhattan stage. She also devoted significant time to food and farm policy outreach in 2007-2009 as a Kellogg Food and Society Fellow. Her background includes newspaper and magazine work as a business journalist. She holds a masters degree in business administration from Drury University and bachelors’ degrees in economics and political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Conference in Jacksonville open for Registration


First Coast Specialty Crop Conference in Jacksonville

to provide practical skills for strengthening local agricultural communities.

Online Registration Open!

Mark your calendars, the UF/IFAS Small Farms and Alternative Enterprise conference is coming to Jacksonville. This conference has evolved from an annual statewide event beginning in 2009 in Kissimmee, Florida, to more targeted, regional conferences across the state.

The Jacksonville conference, taking place on August 14 & 15, 2015, is designed to provide multiple networking and educational opportunities for farmers and other stakeholders in the regional food system. This conference is the first of the new regional events created by a team of UF/IFAS Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises extension agents and other stakeholders in the region. This local planning team has created a conference program designed to address the needs and concerns of Northeast Florida farmers.

Whether you are interested in improving your farming skills by enhancing your soils and pest management, obtain practical knowledge for food safety and post harvest practices, or diversifying your farm through cut flower production, mushrooms or microgreens, this is the place for you.

IMG_0688The conference will also provide attendees with marketing skills through a number of detailed skill-sessions. Finally, in a small group setting, there will be comprehensive, in-depth small group meetings that are created to provide attendees with specific skills like reading and interpreting your soil test and pest and disease identification.

Check out the Conference Program and Register online at

Early Bird registration is $45 if you register on or before July 28. Registration is $55 after this date. Your registration includes refreshments, lunch, and educational materials.

For more information about the conference, contact Jose Perez at 352-294-1692 or

Two Regional Conferences Announced

Regional conf anno

Two Specialty Crop Conferences in 2015 including Jacksonville and Apopka

GAINESVILLE, Florida. May, 2015 – The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Extension Team is pleased to announce five Regional Small Farms & Alternative Enterprises Conferences throughout Florida in 2015 and 2016.

The annual statewide Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference has been a signature event in the Florida farming community since 2009. In the past six years (2009-2014), more than 4,000 attendees have benefited from educational programs and networking opportunities at these events.  Year after year it has been a tremendously rewarding and successful event.

Building on this foundation, the conference planning team has evolved into regional events to better serve the needs of local farmers across Florida. These events will continue to offer the same quality of programming as past statewide conferences, but they will also meet the needs of targeted specialty crop industries at a local level. Each regional event will be led by a local team composed of extension faculty, farmers and local industry stakeholders, as well as statewide partners.

Regional Events Planned in Northeast and Central Florida

A regional Conference is planned for northeast Florida. This event will take place on August 14 & 15, 2015 at the University of North Florida (UNF) Student Union in Jacksonville. Online Registration for this event will open on June 1st, 2015.

Another regional conference is planned for Central Florida at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center, Apopka; on November 6, 2015.

About the Conferences

The goals of the Florida Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conferences are to provide farmers with up-to-date, research-based and in-depth educational information they can immediately apply to their operation to facilitate solutions-based collaboration by encouraging networking and an open dialog among members of Florida’s small farms community, and to increase awareness of Florida’s small farms industry among decision-makers, community organizations and agricultural professionals The conferences are supported in part by a competitive grant from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Specialty Crop Block Grant Program.

For more information please contact Jose Perez  at 352-294-1692 or Visit us online at For updates on these conferences please sign in to receive email updates, or follow us on Facebook at ###

Cost Share Helps Farmers, Ranchers Conserve Natural Resources

Take advantage of this opportunity from Florida NRCS!

nrcs pic citrus
Orange Grove, Photo by Florida NRCS

Application deadline for Environmental Quality Incentive Program Nov. 21

Florida farmers and ranchers can apply until Nov. 21 for financial assistance in fiscal year 2015 through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to improve soil, water, air, plants, animals and related resources.

Through EQIP, the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) develops contracts with agricultural producers to help plan and implement conservation practices that address natural resource concerns.  Eligible land includes cropland, rangeland, pastureland, private non-industrial forestland and other farm or ranch lands.  The application process for conservation programs is continuous, but funding selections are typically made once a year.

Begin by visiting your local NRCS field office and requesting help developing a conservation plan. Our experts provide this free service to help you use your natural resources more efficiently. To learn about technical and financial assistance available from NRCS, go to Getting Started with NRCS.

Thank you for a Great 2014 Conference!

florida-small-farms-logo.jpgWe would really like to thank you for attending the 2014 Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference. It was great to see how months of planning came to successful fruition on August 1st and 2nd. Check out the picture gallery below and a video from the conference in this post.

At the conclusion of the 2014 conference, we had welcomed nearly 600 attendees, presented 21 educational sessions with 57 speakers, showcased 74 exhibits, displayed 17 educational posters and several livestock demonstrations, and conducted 3 pre-conference food and farm tours.

Additionally, participants enjoyed a great diversity of delicious food from Florida small farms prepared by talented chefs, recognized three Innovative Small Farm Operators and networked at the Friday evening social with man new acquaintances.

In addition, the speaker materials from this year’s conference will be posted by August 22 at: For the latest updates to our educational programs and highlights of Florida’s small farm industry, please also subscribe to the Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference’s YouTube Channel at: and our Facebook page at:

See you next time!!

Photo Credit: Tyler Jones, UF, IFAS, ICS

FAMU - CAFS HR (4)UF_IFAS_Extension



Speaker Louise Divine talks about Online Farmers Markets

Louise Divine at her farm collecting squash bees
Louise Divine at her farm collecting squash bees

The internet has changed the way of communication and how people do business. It has brought new possibilities to the traditional agricultural industry. Louise Divine, owner of Turkey Hill Farm, and Katie Harris, Full Earth Farm are Executive Co-directors of the Red Hill Small Farm Alliance, which runs the Red Hills Online Farmers Market. Louise and Katie are speakers for the upcoming Small Farms and Alternative Enterprises Conference. Divine agreed to kindly shared some her views with us in a brief interview below.

Farmers who sell their products in the open-air farmers markets experience difficulties. “You harvest your produce and take it to the market, but rain will keep consumers at home, then you don’t sell your product. It can leave you in a bad spot and it becomes a gamble.” Divine said.

The online farmers market gives farmers a platform to show their product and also consumers a window to check what’s new and fresh in the market. The Red Hills Online Farmers Market  provide home delivery service for customers that for whatever reasons do not go to the farmers market, but want fresh produce. For farmers, the online market reduces risk, as harvests and deliveries follow the online sales already made by customers.

The idea of setting up an online Red Hills online marktmarket was initiated from a software advertisement for online markets watched by Divine. Additionally, she heard one farmer speak about their experiences with an online market. Together with three other farmers who shared her enthusiasm decided to form the Red Hill Small Farm Alliance.  With guidance from all the members of the alliance, they decided to create an online market as a good marketing alternative for farmers in the region.

The online farmer market is now in its fourth year, and the farmers have seen high rates of sales growth every year. “Our farmers’ market sells in a radius of 100 miles from Tallahassee, and it has 30 to 40 farmer vendors at any given time. I believe the market has grown by word of mouth. We don’t attempt to make a profit as a market, but rather offer a service to both farmers and customers.” Divine said.

For Divine and all the farmers belonging to the online market, the market has provided an increasingly important marketing avenue and also helped strengthen the farm community in the region.

Turkey Hill Farm Produce
Turkey Hill Farm Produce

At the end of interview, Divine shared some tips about how to sell online. She said: “You have to know how to present your products and your farm in pictures, while in an open air market, farmers interact with customers face to face.” Contrary to what many expect, the online customers are of all ages and walks of life, just as her regular customers, that is, the older folks make great use of the internet to shop online just as younger people.

If you want to know more, please come to the session called “Managing a Successful Online Market” where Divine and Katie Harris, both Executive Co-Directors of the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance, will share their detailed experiences, advice and tips.

The session will be take place on Saturday from 1:45 to 3:45 pm in Room 162, and will be moderated by Ed Skvarch from UF/IFAS St. Lucie County Extension.

Find more information about the Red Hills Small Farm Alliance here, and their Red Hills Online Farmers Market here.

See you in Kissimmee!

Photo Credits: Turkey Hill Farm and Red Hill Small Farm Alliance.

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!

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!

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!