Monday, August 13, 2012

Slow Food Tampa Bay Meeting Inspires Local Farming and Local Food Awareness

I've dabbled in growing plants- I profess to have a green thumb and can even bring back to life any dying plant, but I've never really ventured into the world of a backyard farmer.  I'm a lover of flowers and fragrant flowers at that- roses, gardenias, jasmine.... but I've been called recently to begin investigating growing more herbs and even some veggies.

On an internally guided whim, tonight I attending a Slow Food Tampa Bay meeting in St. Petersburg @Studio620.  It was the second meeting I've ever attended, the first was for the movie premier of FRESH in Tampa about two years ago.   This meeting, while a small gathering, drew individuals from all over Pinellas County and even folks from Polk and Manatee Counties.  The evening's topic focused on What's Seasonable in Florida.  Sounds exciting, huh?  Well... I have to say I left inspired.

The guest speaker, John, was a gentleman who established the Suncoast Food Alliance an organization that promotes the slow food market- selling food from farmers to restaurants and establishments using food to nourish the people of our community.

John's presentation was chuck full of a ton of information about the slow food movement and information about our community and fun stories of our local community chef's and the role the local farm plays on the health and wellness of our community and even on our local farmer's markets.

What I didn't realize - and I think we all need to consider and contemplate this stat- Florida ranks dead last in all the states to buy local food.  We're all reaching for food that's been imported in and shipped in that is not local.  This is so sad!  Florida has plenty of food to supply to our own community.  We just aren't buying these products. In turn, we're not supporting our local farmers, our neighbors and our local economy.

In Pinellas county- there are really only 3 ways for us to truly shop and buy local food: 
  • Community Supported Agriculture -CSA (only 1 exists in Pinellas:  Gateway Organic Farm)
  • Community Gardens
  • Grow our own
From what John said- Pinellas county only has about 1500 acres that are available for potential use for farming/agricultural needs.  That is not a whole lot of land.  Apparently, Pinellas County is the most dense community south of NYC.  WOW- didn't know that one either!

All these little bits of info make me feel it's so necessary for me to contribute to the local market-- particularly, my own little veggie garden.  From what I've heard tonight and read in some of my favorite magazines - it's totally possible to take a 10x10ft plot of land and make a whole lot of sustainable, healthy veggies grow. I'm excited to begin an adventure that will yield unique heirloom tomatoes and am looking into getting seeds from the seed saver exchange.

I've noticed the St. Petersburg Downtown Saturday Morning Market has grown and has become more focused on promoting local farms, local business and local food vendors.  It's changed in part because of John's urging to grow the demand and awareness of local farmers.  I feel it needs to grow even more and by the looks of it, it'll take a communal approach to deliver some amazing local, sustainable and organic foods grown by backyard gardeners like myself. 

If you are interested in eating seasonably... here is a great video....
 I'm off to plot and plan my herb and veggie garden. Very excited! 
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